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AI startup Staqu raises funding from Indian Angel Network

L to R: Atul Rai, Anurag Saini, Chetan Rexwal and Pankaj Sharma

L to R: Atul Rai, Anurag Saini, Chetan Rexwal and Pankaj Sharma

Gurgaon-based artificial intelligence (AI) focused startup Staqu Technologies Pvt. Ltd has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Indian Angel Network (IAN).

The funding round was led by Bikky Khosla, Neeraj Singal and Ajay Gupta on behalf of IAN, the company said in a statement. Khosla will join the board of directors of Staqu.

The firm will use the funds to build its technology and strengthen its team.

“We plan to expand the computational strength of our VGrep Lab (the AI research lab at Staqu) and fuel it with clusters of GPUs and other technical resources. Currently, we are applying our research to solve pressing problems in the e-commerce sector. In the near future, we are planning to use it to address issues across other market segments, too,” said Atul Rai, co-founder and Ceo, Staqu.

Staqu provides automation for e-commerce companies in areas such as image search, tag generation and real time recommendation. The solutions include the VGrep API Suite that comprises products such as visual search engine and hybrid recommendation engine. The firm’s key focus areas include image processing, deep learning, computer vision and overall improvement of users’ daily mobile experience through an amalgamation of AI and engineering.

“Search is becoming very complex and consumer experience demands precise results of articles being searched. Staqu’s AI engine can increase the sales of its e-commerce customers and can also create alternate revenue streams for its original equipment manufacturer (OEM) customers,” said Bikky Khosla, lead member, IAN.

Staqu provides services such as meta tag and image search which operate on a SaaS-based model for the fashion segments of e-commerce companies. Since starting operations in October 2015, the firm has partnered with eight to nine clients. Roposo, Yepme, Trade India and Paytm in the e-commerce sector and Karbonn and Panasonic in the mobile phone segment are among its clients. For the e-commerce firms, Staqu provides services such as image search, tag generation and real time recommendation.

“We are trying to automate everything. E-commerce has two parts – one is operational costs and second is product ad catalog costs. We are trying to minimise the latter,” explained Rai.

The firm has partnered with mobile phone companies to service the software on cameras, instead of the hardware. Staqu will also partner with financial institutions to offer services such as thumb impression and face recognition for know-your-customer (KYC) processing.

The firm offers its services on a monthly subscription basis, and the price varies on the basis of the image requirements.

Founded by Atul Rai (CEO), Anurag Saini (CTO), Chetan Rexwal (vice president, product) and Pankaj Sharma (vice president, engineering), the firm currently has a team of 15 people and aims to scale it up to 30.

Rai has specialized in artificial intelligence from the University of Manchester and his experience in computer vision and machine learning spans five years. Saini’s has expertise in mobile app development on Android and iOS. He has serviced clients such as Motherson Sumi Infotech, Bennett Coleman and Co. and was the lead developer for Magic Bricks’ app. Rexwal is an Android developer and has developed applications for Micromax, Karbonn and Panasonic. Sharma has developed applications for a number of startups, including Zomato.

Staqu was among the top four startups selected for IBM’s Global Entrepreneur Programme as part of their Smart Camp challenge.

IAN’s most recent funding deals include investments in mobile advertising platform PayTunes, tech-enabled fashion startup 6Degree, Delhi-based city guide Little Black Book, entertainment firm Roast Media Pvt Ltd which operates mobile entertainment app Roast and robotics startup SP Robotics Works.

A number of Indian startups in the artificial intelligence space have caught investors’ attention recently.

In May this year, Bangalore-based artificial intelligence startup Niki.ai raised an undisclosed amount of investment from Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons and existing investor Ronnie Screwvala’s Unilazer Ventures.

In January 2016, Snapshopr, an artificial intelligence (AI) startup that specialises in visual search and image recognition, secured an undisclosed amount in angel funding led by former Flipkart CTO Amod Malviya.

Last year in December, Mumbai-based AI startup Arya.ai raised $750,000 (around Rs 5 crore) in pre-Series A round of funding from YourNest Angel Fund and VentureNursery members. In fact, Arya.ai was the first Indian startup to be selected by Paris&Co, a French innovation agency, as one of 21 companies globally that do standout innovations.

In August last year, Samsung and Wipro Ventures invested under $20 million in US-based Vicarious, a robotics startup that enables computers to achieve human-level intelligence. The Silicon Valley-based Vicarious was founded by India-born entrepreneur and researcher Dileep George along with Phoenix in 2010.

Also, data analytics and AI startup Retention.ai was snapped up by mobile news curator Inshorts in October 2015. The technology will be used to strengthen Inshorts’ customer retention efforts.

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