Startups

Weights & Biases, which counts OpenAI as a customer, lands $50M

Comment

data center in futuristic steel and glass structure room for backup
Image Credits: 4X-image / Getty Images

One of the more prolific AI and machine learning development platforms, Weights & Biases has secured a new tranche of cash from ex-GitHub CEO Nat Friedman and former Y Combinator partner Daniel Gross.

Friedman and Gross, alongside existing investors Coatue, Insight Partners, Felicis, Bond, BloombergBeta and Sapphire, have invested $50 million in Weights & Biases in a strategic round that values the company at $1.25 billion. Bringing the startup’s total raised to $250 million, the investment comes as Weights & Biases prepares to launch Prompts, a new product designed to help users monitor and evaluate the performance of large language models (LLMs) along the lines of OpenAI’s GPT-4.

The $50 million investment is far smaller than Weights & Biases’ previous haul, its Series C, which came in at around $135 million. But Lavanya Shukla, VP of growth at Weights & Biases, described it as opportunistic.

“We believe that giving employees machine learning tools should be table-stakes for CTOs and their teams,” she told TechCrunch in an email interview. “By tackling testing, security and reliability, Weights & Biases sits at a critical point along the development of a successful machine learning model.”

Lukas Biewald and Chris Van Pelt co-founded Weights & Biases in 2017, after spending years working on tools for machine learning engineers and data scientists. The two previously launched Figure Eight, formerly known as CrowdFlower, to recruit crowdworkers to label training data for machine learning algorithms. (Figure Eight was acquired by Appen in 2019 for $175 million.)

“The two identified a bigger problem: That machine learning practitioners didn’t have a great system of record for their experiments,” Shukla said. “This highly experimental yet crucial science was being logged in spreadsheets and degraded screenshots.”

So Biewald and Van Pelt joined forces with a third co-founder, a Google alumnus and developer Shawn Lewis, in an attempt to solve for that problem. Over the course of the next several years, they built the MVP for Weights & Biases: workflows to support the machine learning development life cycle.

Weights & Biases occupies a category of platforms known as MLOps, or machine learning operations, which enable data scientists to create new machine learning models and run them through repeatable, automated workflows that deploy them into production. As the demand for AI has grown, so, too, has the demand for MLOps platforms. Allied Market Research estimates that the MLOps segment will be worth $23.1 billion by 2023.

New MLOps platforms emerge on the regular. To name a few, there’s Seldon, FedML, Qwak, Galileo, Striveworks, Arize, Comet and Tecton. That’s ignoring offerings from incumbents like Azure, AWS and Google Cloud.

But what differentiates Weights & Biases is its approach to MLOps, Shukla claims.

First, all of Weights & Biases’ products were co-designed with partners and customers in an effort to ensure they meet the needs of those partners and customers, Shukla says. Second, the platform places an emphasis on tools to interrogate the datasets used to train models, allowing customers to check for issues that might arise, like biases and the presence of personally identifiable information — ideally before those datasets go into production.

Weights & Biases
Weights & Biases monitoring platform for machine learning operations. Image Credits: Weights & Biases

“Weights & Biases is the leading machine learning platform to help developers build better models faster,” Shukla said. “We build lightweight, interoperable tools to quickly track experiments, version and iterate on datasets, evaluate model performance, reproduce models, visualize results and spot regressions, and share findings with colleagues. This lets machine learning engineers quickly iterate on their machine learning pipelines with the confidence that their datasets and models are tracked and versioned in a reliable system of record.”

Whatever other advantages Weights & Biases has, first mover is almost certainly one of them.

The platform’s solution is integrated in over 20,000 open source repositories, Shukla claims, and Weights & Biases has been cited in hundreds of machine learning academic research papers. It’s also the toolset of choice for high-profile, well-funded generative AI model builders, including OpenAI, Aleph Alpha, Cohere, Anthropic and Hugging Face.

“OpenAI trains all models on Weights & Biases. With hundreds of employees running thousands of experiments, it is critical that OpenAI has a way to test, identify issues and debug their models quickly,” Shukla said. “OpenAI also has to do a lot of training runs on small subsets of their data. Thanks to Weights & Biases, they were able to train GPT-4 faster.”

Beyond the generative AI cohort, Weights & Biases has 700,000 users — up from 100,000 in 2021 — and more than 1,000 paying users. Its team, meanwhile, has grown to over 200 people, most based in its headquarters in San Francisco.

Weights & Biases is aiming to grow that customer base further with Prompts, its alluded-to new product, which allows users to interrogate an LLM’s outputs and fine-tune the LLMs themselves.

“LLMs may reduce the number of people you need to train models, but they will increase the number of people who companies need to fine-tune, interface and build apps with those models,” Shukla said. “The goal of Prompts is also to serve a new class of users and change how big labs build machine learning models. In addition to prompt engineers and fine-tuners, researchers and companies building unique internal models will have more tools to improve their models.”

As for Weights & Biases, it’ll have a reason to continue building out its MLOps suite.

More TechCrunch

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

19 hours ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

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’

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

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.

3 days 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.

3 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