Category: Startup

LangChain secures $25 million in funding and unveils a platform to facilitate the full lifecycle of Large Language Model applications.

Today, LangChain, a pioneer in advancing large language model (LLM) application development through its open-source platform, announced a successful $25 million Series A funding round, spearheaded by Sequoia Capital. Alongside this financial milestone, the startup unveiled LangSmith, its premier subscription-based LLMOps solution, now widely available.

LangSmith serves as a comprehensive platform, empowering developers to expedite the lifecycle of LLM projects, encompassing everything from initial development and testing phases to final deployment and ongoing monitoring. Initially launched in a limited beta in July of the previous year, LangSmith has rapidly become a critical tool for numerous enterprises, witnessing widespread adoption on a monthly basis, the company reports.

This strategic launch addresses the growing demand among developers for robust solutions that enhance the development, performance, and reliability of LLM-driven applications in live environments.

What does LangChain’s LangSmith offer? LangChain has been instrumental in providing developers with an essential programming toolkit via its open-source framework. This toolkit facilitates the creation of LLM applications by integrating LLMs through APIs, linking them together, and connecting them to various data sources and tools to achieve diverse objectives. Originating as a hobby project, it swiftly evolved into a fundamental component for over 5,000 LLM applications, spanning internal tools, autonomous agents, games, chat automation, and beyond.

However, constructing applications is merely the beginning. Navigating the complexities of bringing an LLM application to market requires overcoming numerous obstacles, a challenge LangSmith addresses. This new paid offering aids developers in debugging, testing, and monitoring their LLM applications.

During the prototyping phase, LangSmith grants developers comprehensive insight into the LLM call sequence, enabling real-time identification and resolution of errors and performance issues. It also supports collaboration with experts to refine app functionality and incorporates both human and AI-assisted evaluations to ensure relevance, accuracy, and sensitivity.

Once a prototype is ready, LangSmith’s integrated platform facilitates deployment via hosted LangServe, offering detailed insights into production dynamics, from cost and latency to anomalies and errors, thereby ensuring the delivery of high-quality, cost-efficient LLM applications.

Early Adoption Insights A recent blog post by Sonya Huang and Romie Boyd from Sequoia revealed that LangSmith has attracted over 70,000 signups since its beta release in July 2023, with more than 5,000 companies now leveraging the technology monthly. Esteemed firms like Rakuten, Elastic, Moody’s, and Retool are among its users.

These companies utilize LangSmith for various purposes, from enabling Elastic to swiftly deploy its AI Assistant for security, to assisting Rakuten in conducting thorough tests and making informed decisions for their Rakuten AI for Business platform. Moody’s benefits from LangSmith for automated evaluations, streamlined debugging, and rapid experimentation, fostering innovation and agility.

As LangSmith transitions to general availability, its influence in the dynamic AI sector is poised to grow significantly.

Looking ahead, LangChain plans to enrich the LangSmith platform with new features such as regression testing, online production data evaluators, improved filtering, conversation support, and simplified application deployment via hosted LangServe. It will also introduce enterprise-level capabilities to enhance administration and security measures.

Following this Series A funding led by Sequoia, LangChain’s total fundraising has reached $35 million, with a prior $10 million round led by Benchmark, as reported by Crunchbase. LangChain stands alongside other platforms like TruEra’s TruLens, W&B Prompts, and Arize’s Pheonix, which also contribute to the evaluation and monitoring of LLM applications.

Digs Secures $7 Million in Funding for Its Home Builder Collaboration Platform

Based in Vancouver, Washington, Digs, a platform designed for collaboration, offers homebuilders, vendors, and eventually homeowners, a virtual representation of a house. The company recently announced an expansion of its initial $7 million seed funding from 2023 by an additional $7 million. Leading this new investment round are the Oregon Venture Fund (OVF) and Legacy Capital Ventures, joined by previous investors such as Fuse, Flying Fish, Betaworks, and PSF, as well as a new participant, Deepwater Asset Management.

Digs CEO and co-founder Ryan Fink expressed enthusiasm about the involvement of experienced investors like OVF and Legacy in their seed round, emphasizing their role in guiding the company through rapid growth. He highlighted the importance of their expertise in scaling consumer technology for Digs’ continued efficient growth and market strategy enhancement.

Fink, along with Ty Frackiewicz, also founded Streem, a company focused on creating virtual home replicas using smartphone cameras, which was acquired by Frontdoor in 2019. Currently, Digs adopts a different strategy, emphasizing document sharing among builders, vendors, and homeowners, utilizing AI and computer vision for better document interpretation. This approach is supported by a modern platform for real-time collaboration and document storage.

Gene Munster, managing partner at Deepwater, praised Digs for elevating the home building and ownership experience, recognizing the team’s use of AI to address everyday challenges for builders and homeowners.

Digs has recently transitioned from beta to full availability in the U.S. and Canada. Its clientele includes both boutique and national builders.

To support its growth, Digs has appointed Jef Holove as its chief operating officer. Holove, who previously led Drop and was involved in Streem, Basis (acquired by Intel), and Eye-Fi (acquired by Ricoh), brings a wealth of experience in leading successful ventures.

Holove describes Digs’ digital twin as encompassing all necessary information for home builders and owners, ranging from structural details to appliance specifications, streamlining home management and improvement with easily accessible, personalized insights.

Kiln, a provider of staking technology, secures $17 million in an uncommon cryptocurrency investment round

In 2023, the crypto industry saw a significant decline in venture capital investments compared to the previous year, with a 68% decrease according to PitchBook. Despite this downturn, crypto companies still managed to raise $9.5 billion, although this figure pales in comparison to the $30 billion raised in 2022.

Among the crypto startups, French company Kiln stands out, having successfully completed a $17 million funding round in December 2023. The round was led by 1kx and included participation from Crypto.com, IOSG, Wintermute Ventures, KXVC, LBank, and some returning investors.

Kiln, though not widely known, specializes in white-label, infrastructure-focused products and is a key technology provider for companies like Ledger, Crypto.com, and Coinbase, particularly for pooled staking services in non-custodial wallets.

Staking, a process of locking crypto assets in a blockchain to secure it and its transactions, is incentivized financially as it offers rewards over time. Kiln’s technology plays a pivotal role in this, especially for proof-of-stake blockchains like Ethereum, Polygon, Solana, and Avalanche. Ethereum, which transitioned to proof-of-stake in September 2022, is a notable client.

Kiln’s offerings include a suite of smart contracts that simplify the staking process. Through these contracts, users can easily join Kiln’s staking pools and begin earning rewards. The company also benefits from commissions, processed automatically by the smart contracts. Impressively, Kiln has managed to grow its managed staked assets fivefold over the past year, currently overseeing 1,168,288 staked ETH, equivalent to nearly $3 billion.

Kiln is also a significant player in operating Ethereum validator nodes, being the largest operator with over 4% market share. Their approach emphasizes security and financial performance and is supported by strategic partnerships, like with the Ethereum Foundation, as noted by their head of marketing, Marie Siegrist.

Besides on-chain products, Kiln offers SDKs and APIs for easy integration with its staking pools and operates a significant network of validators. Their services cater to those seeking to incorporate one-click staking into non-custodial wallets, with some clients requesting dedicated validators.

Kiln’s CEO, Laszlo Szabo, expressed enthusiasm about the company’s future, including expansion plans and the establishment of a new office in Singapore. Since its inception, Kiln has raised a total of $35 million, with its revenue growing alongside its total assets under management due to commission on staking rewards.

Oleria, a Cybersecurity Firm Based in Seattle, Secures $33 Million in Funding

Seattle-based startup Oleria, specializing in helping businesses manage employee access to applications and data, recently secured $33.1 million in a Series A funding round. GeekWire had initially reported this development upon discovering an SEC filing. Oleria is now elaborating on its plans for the funds and its growth strategy, which includes expanding its current 20-person team threefold within the next year.

The company, which debuted from stealth mode last year, offers software aimed at assisting businesses in preventing and managing security breaches in a rapidly evolving cybersecurity environment. Oleria’s software focuses on automating various security tasks and simplifying the management of internal access to complex back-end systems, often entangled with outdated software and manual processes.

CEO Jim Alkove of Oleria emphasized the increasing importance and complexity of understanding and managing who has access to what resources within a company. Oleria is primarily focusing on large enterprises with over 1,000 employees and has already started onboarding paying customers. The company anticipates making its product widely available soon.

Alkove, who has a background as the former chief trust officer at Salesforce and an advisor for the World Economic Forum’s Global Center for Cybersecurity, highlighted the dual role of AI in both enhancing access understanding and threat detection and in posing new risks as hackers exploit the technology. He remarked, “We have only seen the tip of the iceberg regarding the potential impact of AI on security.”

Jagadeesh Kunda, co-founder of Oleria and former chief product officer at cloud directory platform JumpCloud, has significant experience from previous engineering leadership roles at Salesforce, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft.

Oleria has attracted notable investors, including Salesforce Ventures, Evolution Equity Partners (which led the Series A round), Tapestry VC, and Zscaler, bringing its total funding to over $40 million. Taher Elgamal, a partner at Evolution and former CTO of security at Salesforce, praised Oleria for advancing cybersecurity to meet current and future challenges in identity security. Elgamal, along with former Mandiant COO John Watters, will be joining Oleria’s board.

Google Cloud introduces innovative generative AI solutions designed specifically for the retail sector.

Google has recently launched a series of new tools for retailers, harnessing the power of generative artificial intelligence to enhance online shopping experiences and streamline various retail operations, as announced by its cloud business in a recent release.

This array of new offerings includes a generative AI-driven chatbot that retailers can integrate into their websites and mobile applications. These advanced virtual agents are capable of engaging in conversations with consumers, providing personalized product recommendations based on individual shopping preferences.

Carrie Tharp, Google Cloud’s Vice President of Strategic Industries, emphasized the rapid evolution of generative AI in her statement in the release. “In only a year, generative AI has transformed from an emerging concept into one of the most rapidly evolving technologies, becoming a crucial element in the strategies of numerous retailers,” she said.

The introduction of Google Cloud’s tools marks a significant milestone in the increasing influence of generative AI within the retail sector. This trend has been gaining momentum, as evident from Amazon’s introduction of an AI tool for sellers in September and the widespread adoption of this technology by retailers during the latest holiday shopping season, often behind the scenes.

Among the innovations announced by Google is a large language model feature designed to enhance the quality of product searches. This feature is currently accessible to a select group of stores, with plans for broader availability later in the year.

Google’s suite of AI products also includes tools aimed at improving customer service systems for retailers and streamlining their product cataloging processes.

The applications of these AI tools extend beyond online platforms to physical retail stores as well, with enhancements being added to Google Distributed Cloud Edge, an existing combination of hardware and software solutions.

This announcement from Google Cloud, revealing the latest advancements in AI tools for the retail industry, comes just before the National Retail Federation’s annual convention set to take place in New York City.

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