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Substrate Secures a huge $8M Funding to Revolutionize Enterprise AI with ‘Lego Blocks’ Method

ByYasmeeta Oon

Jun 25, 2024

Substrate Secures a huge $8M Funding to Revolutionize Enterprise AI with ‘Lego Blocks’ Method

Substrate, a startup founded by tech industry veterans Rob Cheung and Ben Guo, has emerged from stealth to launch its artificial intelligence development platform. The company also announced an $8 million funding round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners to expand its team and product offerings.

The company’s goal is to democratize AI by providing a unified platform for enterprises to build, deploy, and manage machine learning models and pipelines. Substrate’s flagship offering is an API that enables developers to create complex AI workflows by integrating high-quality open-source models curated and optimized by Substrate. This platform aims to make it significantly easier and more cost-effective for enterprises to leverage advanced AI capabilities, such as large language models (LLMs) and other generative AI techniques, accelerating AI adoption across various industries from content creation to business analytics to customer support.

Rob Cheung, co-founder and CEO of Substrate, explained in an interview with VentureBeat, “The main problems right now with integrating the current generation of AI, and LLMs in particular, are accuracy, cost, and latency. Substrate addresses all three by enabling developers to break down a big complex problem into many smaller, more constrained problems that are easier to solve.”

Cheung compared this approach to how Google Search operates behind the scenes, parsing queries with 15-20 different machine learning models working together. “If you jam everything into one giant prompt, you might get good answers 10% of the time, but 90% of the time you’re really in the dark about how that giant prompt is going to steer it,” he said. “By breaking it down and having a good way to run a broken-down description of the problems, we solve many of the accuracy issues.”

While tech giants like Google have built extensive infrastructure to optimize and orchestrate numerous ML models, most companies lack these capabilities. Cheung believes centralizing performance optimization work and offering it as a service is what most enterprises need. “One of our big customers, Substack — they’re really just not interested in running machine learning infrastructure. They want Lego blocks to build out their ML workload and just have it work,” he said.

Substrate co-founder Ben Guo highlighted the company’s experiences with early customers like Substack, which used the platform to generate summaries and topic categories for blog posts. “It enables them to use all their models in one place, running on one cluster, which allows for much faster run speeds for substantial workloads, lower costs, and better reliability,” he explained.

In addition to performance benefits, Guo believes Substrate’s curated set of plug-and-play models will appeal to enterprises that don’t want to navigate the growing landscape of open-source AI. “Part of what people want is for us to read the literature, cut through the noise, and pick the most interesting and useful models as they come out,” he said.

Substrate also aims to create a better developer experience by providing simple abstractions and templates for common enterprise use cases. “We’re taking a step back, looking at the landscape, and trying to figure out the platonic ideal for these abstractions, which I think nobody is really doing right now,” Guo told VentureBeat. “It’s kind of like what I learned at Stripe — there’s a lot of hidden value in creating very simple abstractions,” such as enabling a payments integration in just seven lines of code.

As large language models and other AI building blocks become more powerful and accessible, platforms like Substrate could be crucial in helping enterprises translate these raw capabilities into real-world applications and business value. With a more abstracted, full-stack approach to AI development, Substrate aims to do for machine learning what cloud platforms did for general-purpose computing — making it simpler and more economical for companies to build and deploy powerful software.

Substrate’s $8 million funding round will enable it to expand its platform, grow its team, and scale up its go-to-market efforts to reach more enterprise customers. With seasoned founders and strong early traction, the startup is well-positioned to become a significant player in the rapidly evolving world of enterprise AI.

Substrate at a Glance

FoundedBy tech industry veterans Rob Cheung and Ben Guo
Funding$8 million in a round led by Lightspeed Venture Partners
Platform GoalDemocratize AI by providing a unified platform for building, deploying, and managing AI models
Key OfferingsAPI for creating complex AI workflows using curated and optimized open-source models
Target IndustriesContent creation, business analytics, customer support, and more
Customer HighlightSubstack, using the platform for generating summaries and topic categories for blog posts

Key Features of Substrate’s Platform:

  • Unified AI Development: Combines multiple open-source models into one platform, simplifying AI integration for enterprises.
  • Cost-Effective Solutions: Reduces the cost of deploying advanced AI capabilities by optimizing performance and reliability.
  • Curated Models: Provides a selection of high-quality, pre-optimized models, eliminating the need for extensive in-house expertise.
  • Enhanced Productivity: Offers simple abstractions and templates for common enterprise use cases, speeding up AI deployment.
  • Broad Applicability: Suitable for various industries, from content creation to business analytics, ensuring wide adoption potential.

Substrate’s approach to AI development is unique because it focuses on breaking down complex AI problems into manageable pieces. This method not only improves accuracy but also reduces costs and latency, making advanced AI capabilities more accessible to enterprises. By providing a curated selection of open-source models and offering them through a unified platform, Substrate simplifies the AI integration process for businesses that might lack extensive machine learning infrastructure.

Additionally, the company’s emphasis on creating simple abstractions and templates for common use cases enhances developer productivity. This approach is reminiscent of Stripe’s strategy in the payments industry, which underscores the hidden value in creating straightforward, effective solutions.

As AI technology continues to advance, platforms like Substrate are poised to play a critical role in helping enterprises leverage these capabilities effectively. By providing a comprehensive, full-stack solution, Substrate is positioned to make a significant impact in the AI landscape, much like cloud platforms revolutionized general-purpose computing.

With a strong foundation, experienced leadership, and substantial funding, Substrate is set to become a key player in the enterprise AI market. The company’s innovative platform, combined with its commitment to simplifying AI development, makes it a standout solution for businesses looking to harness the power of artificial intelligence.

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Featured Image courtesy of DALL-E by ChatGPT

Yasmeeta Oon

Just a girl trying to break into the world of journalism, constantly on the hunt for the next big story to share.

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