Artificial Intelligence — our quest to create another us, perhaps something (or someone?) sharper, smarter than us. Well we might still be quite some time away from doing that, but there definitely has been progressiveness in this domain. And startups in this domain — though only a small fraction of the overall ecosystem — have been well integrated in this progress.
One such startup, which has successfully been able to bring Artificial Intelligence into our day-to-day online habits, and is planning to take it a notch further, is Mad Street Den. And the husband-wife duo founded startup has just scored a Series A (speculated to be $5 Million), close to a year and a half after their $1.5 Mn seed — one of the largest seed rounds given to a startup ever, at least in the Indian ecosystem.
Registered in the US but working principally out of India, Mad Street Den was founded close to two and a half years ago by Anand Chandrasekaran, a neuroscientist who graduated from Stanford and his wife Ashwini Asokan. Ashwini is an Intel veteran, who worked at the chip manufacturer’s research arm, Intel Labs.
The company had previously secured a $1.5 Mn seed — a figure which continues to remain among the largest which an Indian startup has raised in a seed round, and was known to have developed AI powered, visual search platform for Indian ecommerce sites. The platform — Vue.AI — now acts as a sub brand of Mad Street Den and is currently company’s primary focus.
With Vue.AI, the startup provides ecommerce websites with a variety of AI powered offerings, starting from visual search, recommended automated emailers to customers and going all the way to help ecommerce brands tag their products without any sort of manual intervention. With Vue.AI, e-retailers can also create customised home pages for brands to serve up their customers based on their browsing habits.
Thats not it though. In a rather detailed conversation which CTO and co founder Anand had with me late night, he talked about how Mad Street Den as a company, will evolve further and Vue.AI might barely be scratching the surface. There are plans to build much more advanced engines and to research further in the domain.
There’s not going to be just one path to A.I., but several of them. One path however, could be through a consumer-focused approach. Thats not the only one though. Thats what Mad Street Den is going to be about, a multi-faced approach and intense research.
He further tells me, that the company is constantly experimenting with its current modules, and is looking to see wherein these could fit, apart from their usage in the retail domain. FYI, Mad Street Den also offers products for mobile gaming, engagement analysis, internet of things, and photo apps and social media that use AI such as gaze-tracking, gesture detection and more.
A.I. is just the beginning for Mad Street Den. We have some 15 odd products in our suite and we are continuously looking to build more. And in the process, our modules are constantly evolving and getting better, and we are looking at offering these suite of tools to other verticals as well.
It is interesting to see investors backing a company, which is more into research rather than churning out straight forward consumer products. That, Anand says, has been an advantage for him, to have found investors who are willing to bet money on a research centric startup, and that too in a highly consumer drive ecosystem here in India.
He tells me,
The investors have been supportive. We have been in talks with Sequoia for some time and feel good to have people who know the tech we are building, invest in us.
Lastly, it came down to whether Mad Street Den will bring out something directly interactable with consumers. Google, as we all know, told us it has developed something which could defeat a gaming champion. So anything of that sort from Mad Street Den ? Anand gives me an interesting insight,
We are not looking to immediately bring out something B2C, as our focus remains towards a B2B model. Our company is focused on researching/experimenting more in AI and develop useful backbone products. Now if we straight away get into B2C, that’d require marketing, PR and heart and soul into that one product, thus steering us away from the actual path.
That however, doesn’t mean M.A.D. isn’t coming up with a product at all. We could see a consumer-only product, but there’s still some time, says Anand.