Vicarious, a San Francisco-based company that developed technology to solve Captcha queries last fall, just raised a big new $40 million round from investors including Joe Lonsdale’s Formation 8, Mark Zuckerberg, Vinod Khosla and Peter Thiel.
Zuckerberg invested personally while others like Dustin Moskovitz and Ashton Kutcher invested through their funds. Aydin Senkut’s Felicis Ventures, Garry Tan and Alexis Ohanian’s Initialized Capital, Bryan Johnston of Braintree, Box.com CEO Aaron Levie, Sam Altman, Open Field Capital, Zarco Investment Group and Metaplanet Holdings filled out the rest of the round.
In total, they’ve raised $56.1 million for a company with 10 employees.
Why so much? They’re planning grow their headcount significantly. And their vision is far more encompassing than solving Captchas.
D. Scott Phoenix, the company’s co-founder, said that other artificial intelligence companies leverage convolutional neural network technology that has been around since the 1980s.
“It’s worked in the past because we’ve had this explosion in computational memory, but it’s not how the brain works,” he said. “It’s a rough approximation. By rethinking these core algorithms, Vicarious has been able to leaps forward in performance.”
Phoenix added, “This is a project that takes a really long time.”
He and his co-founder Dileep George, who doctoral work at Stanford focused on the hierarchical models of the brain, are hoping the company’s technology will eventually lead to breakthroughs in areas like robotics, clean energy, and medicine. Also, they’re hoping it will lead to the world’s first intelligent machines.