Rice Computer Science associate professor Anshumali Shrivastava’s start-up company, Houston-based ThirdAI (pronounced Third Eye), has received $6 million in seed funding. The company, which was founded in April of 2021, is dedicated to building the next generation of scalable and sustainable artificial intelligence (AI) tools and rewriting deep learning systems from scratch.
“We are democratizing artificial intelligence through software innovations,” says Shrivastava, CEO and co-founder of ThirdAI. “Our innovation would not only benefit current AI training by shifting to lower-cost CPUs, but it should also allow the ‘unlocking’ of AI training workloads on GPUs that were not previously feasible.”
Tharun Medini, a recent Ph.D. who graduated under Shrivastava from Rice’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, co-founded ThirdAI with Shrivastava and serves as the CTO for the company.
ThirdAI’s accelerator builds hash-based processing algorithms for training and inference with neural networks. The technology is a result of 10 years of innovation in finding efficient (beyond tensor) mathematics for deep learning.
The sub-linear deep learning engine algorithm has demonstrated that ThirdAI can make Commodity x86 CPUs fifteen times faster than most potent NVIDIA GPUs for training large neural networks.
“Democratization of AI will happen when we can train AI on commodity hardware. Take an illustration of video conferencing. Our perception of how we thought we would scale video conferencing was expensive displays, star-shaped speakers, conference rooms, etc. When the pandemic hit, it was Zoom that worked on commodity equipment: laptops and phones."
"Similarly, AI on special hardware is not for all. We need algorithms and human creativity to make it work for all. It will need hard work, ambitious thinking, and lots of coding. We cannot avoid that.“
This initial round of funding was led by Cervin Ventures and Neotribe Ventures, with additional investment from Firebolt Ventures. The seed funding will be used to hire additional programmers and invest in computing resources.
Cervin Ventures’ announcement regarding this investment highlights ThirdAI’s “breakthrough approach” to training deep learning models and states that the technology “has the potential to result in a gigantic leap forward in the accuracy of deep learning models.”
“Shrivastava and his team are uniquely qualified to bring these technologies to market. Our investment in ThirdAI was a no-brainer.”
“It’s not just the computing, but the memory,” Neotribe’s founder Swaroop “Kittu” Kolluri says. “ThirdAI will enable anyone to do it, which is going to be a game changer. As technology around deep learning starts to get more sophisticated, there is no limit to what is possible.”