Gretel AI raises $50M for a platform that lets engineers build and use synthetic data sets to ensure the privacy of their actual data


Cloud online storage technology concept. Big data data information exchange available. Magnifying glass with analytics data
Image Credits: Who_I_am (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Increasingly, conversations about big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence are going hand-in-hand with conversations about privacy and data protection. Now, a startup that is building tools to make it easier for engineers to implement the two simultaneously is announcing a round of growth funding to continue expanding its operations.

Gretel AI, which lets engineers create anonymized, synthetic data sets based on their actual data sets to use in their analytics and to train machine learning models has closed $50 million in funding, a Series B that it will be using to get the company to the next stage of development. The product — which is built as a SaaS product but can also be accessed via APIs — is still in beta but aims to be open to general availability later this year.

Anthos Capital is leading the round with Section 32 also participating alongside Greylock and Moonshots Capital. Greylock led the company’s previous round in 2020, and the startup has raised $65.5 million to date.

From what we understand, this latest round puts the company’s valuation at between $320-$350 million.

The idea behind using synthetic data sets is that it lets an organization remove the risk of data leaking that might contain personal information or other kinds of sensitive data. There are other solutions to address the same issue involving data encryption, although this can be a costly, time-consuming and resource-intensive approach that faces scaling challenges.

The germination for Gretel.ai came out of the direct experiences of the three co-founders in work they did as cybersecurity specialists at a range of organizations including IBM, AWS, Netscout and the U.S. military and over the years.

“We always found that using the right permissions with data was always the bottleneck,” said Ali Golshan, the CEO who co-founded the company with Alex Watson (CPO) and John Myers (CTO). They could see that the longer-term issue would be a growing need and priority for data privacy. “As the world moves from the web to the immersive world of sensors and IOT we are transitioning into a world where people will share their data unconsciously or unknowingly. But humans are not meant to be mined.”

As data engineers, their priority is to be able to work with data easily and quickly, but as citizens of the world, they were unhappy with data protection implications.

“Removing the bottleneck of compute is the problem we’ve solved, and we have created high-velocity development,” he said. “But now we are running into the bottleneck of the data. AI is on a collision course with privacy. At this collision course, we should create tools” to fix that.

Gretel’s opportunity is one that many companies targeting the enterprise market have taken in the world of digital transformation: many organizations now have large engineering operations working on applications to run their businesses, but they still do not have the firepower of the world’s largest technology companies. So Gretel set out to build a toolkit that would let any company build anonymized data sets for themselves, similar to what big tech companies use in their own data work.

The advantage of anonymized data goes beyond simply replacing a synthetic data set for an actual one; they can also be used to augment a data set, or to fill in the gaps where the real-world data might be lacking. Both of these are critical components, especially in cases where the data is needed to train systems, such as in the case of autonomous services, where you seemingly can never have enough teaching data.

Watson had previously worked at AWS (fun fact: we scooped when Amazon acquired his previous startup, harvest.ai), and he says that to date Gretel.ai has secured early customers in areas like life sciences, financial services and gaming. In more basic use cases, it can take as little as 10 minutes to create a synthetic data set. In more complex applications — for example in a genomic database, it could take several days. 

Relatively speaking, this represents “very low friction” for engineers, Watson said, both compared to other approaches such as data encryption using techniques like homomorphic encryption, or indeed the analogue approach of contacting third parties and getting permissions to use datasets. The latter can take six months or longer, too long in cases where time is of the essence.

“This significant Series B investment is a direct reflection of Gretel’s ambitious vision, swift growth, and strength of position in the AI industry as the standard-bearer of tools that enable privacy by design,” said Emily White, president of Anthos Capital, in a statement. “Gretel’s ease of use, the extendability of its services, and the superior accuracy and quality of its synthetic data are much-needed solutions to simplify the exceedingly complex legal and technical barriers companies face due to data privacy concerns.”

“Gretel gives data teams working in any framework or language the tools they need to build privacy by design into their existing workflows and data pipelines, greatly simplifying this process,” added Sridhar Ramaswamy, partner at Greylock. “Time and time again I hear from software engineers and data scientists about the value Gretel offers. Its developer-first, tech-agnostic approach to solving privacy issues is incredibly valuable to every business sector.”

More TechCrunch

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

1 day ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

2 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo