Enterprise AI startup Pryon has closed on $20 million in one of the Southeast’s largest Series A funding rounds to-date. The Series A was led by two of Pryon’s existing investors, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund and Greycroft, along with new investors Breyer Capital and Digital Alpha Advisors.
Several existing investors also participated in the round, including BootstrapLabs, Engage, Good Growth Capital, and Two Sigma Ventures.
CEO Igor Jablokov says that the company will use the oversubscribed round to double down on R&D and grow its roster of pilot enterprise customers.
Founded by artificial intelligence pioneer Jablokov in 2017, Pryon’s team is comprised of veterans of Amazon, Apple, and IBM Watson.
Jablokov himself spent time at Amazon, after his former voice recognition startup, Yap, became Amazon’s first AI acquisition in 2011. At the time, the Yap team was folded into Amazon and began working on the project that was to become the Alexa smart speaker.
Pryon’s CTO, David Nahamoo, Ph.D., was Interim General Manager for IBM’s Speech Business unit.
Pryon is a different play from Alexa, Watson and the like, Jablokov told Hypepotamus in a 2018 interview. Rather than focusing on either the consumer or the researcher, the product is solely aimed at the enterprise customer who needs turnkey but sophisticated AI assistance to help employees do their jobs better.
He calls the concept augmented intelligence.
At the time, Jablokov was coy with details about Pryon’s product, sharing only that it would be a machine learning-powered, cloud-based voice platform.
The CEO is still relatively close-lipped about how it all actually works, but the company does say that they use natural language processing and voice-based commands to query data across siloed departments, all with the goal of making employees more productive and saving companies’ time and costs.
“Pryon’s platform puts the power of AI to work for every employee using the strengths of machines to supercharge human performance,” says Pryon’s website. “[It] connects staff directly to the insights, workflows, and massive amounts of knowledge they need to perform at new levels.”
Jablokov says that this fairly robust Series A will allow the team to remain heads down on product development and research, “waiting until the platform is so undeniable,” to reveal more publicly.
“This is a market where we don’t want to stay state-of-the-art, we want to surpass state of the art,” he says.
Pryon previously raised seed funding to the tune of $4.5 million.
Notably, the Series A contains several investors that went outside their traditional investment thesis to get into the deal. Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund is traditionally just that — a seed fund. And Digital Alpha is a private equity firm typically dealing in much later-stage deals.
Meanwhile, Jim Breyer of Breyer Capital was an early investor in Facebook, Etsy, Spotify and countless others, and for the last several years has focused on AI and human-assisted intelligence companies.
“I am passionate about investing in big thinkers who want to solve important challenges, and Igor’s vision for enterprise AI has the potential to positively transform work as we know it,” Breyer said in a statement.
Pryon has already completed several pilots with enterprises and has at least one company-wide deployment in the works, Jablokov tells Hypepotamus. They have a backlog of companies seeking to test the platform and continue to maintain at least half a dozen active pilots at any given time.
Pryon’s 20 employees are distributed in a number of offices across the country, though Raleigh, North Carolina-based Jablokov is enthusiastic about his commitment to the Southeast. He projects reaching 30-40 employees by year-end.
“We’re really looking at raising our profile in the Southeast,” Jablokov says.
Steve Case, Chairman and CEO of Revolution, calls Pryon “another great example of a company that is successfully building disruptive technology outside Silicon Valley.”