30 Most Innovative Companies 2019


Petuum, Inc.: AI for All

We all know that AI is changing the world. But AI solutions generally tend to focus on specialized applications and to maintain them it is important to have developers who are talented. But such high requirements often come with high expenses and are hard to replicate. Moreover, they are unsustainable in the long run. This makes AI a luxury which can be afforded by select organizations with a vast reserve of resources.

This is where Petuum enters the fray. Petuum allows the enterprises to access AI to design, build, experiment, and customize their own AI solutions for a wide range of industries and areas. This offering by Petuum is making it possible for enterprises to build solutions for industries like healthcare, manufacturing, utilities and many more, by simply making AI accessible. Petuum is quite simply making it possible for enterprises to understand and leverage AI for better decision-making and to boost productivity.

Although Petuum was founded in 2016, the company has been built on years of groundbreaking work on AI, machine learning and distributed computing. Leading from the front is the company’s CEO and co-founder Dr. Eric Xing, who is highly regarded as the top personality in CS/AI research circles.

The story behind Petuum

The story of Petuum begins with Eric Xing taking a sabbatical from his tenured position at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) where he taught computer science in 2010. He took the sabbatical to be a visiting professor at Facebook. It was here that he first got to see the world of industry giants and how they use artificial intelligence and ML. He noticed that there was a gap and felt that there was a need for industrialization of AI and ML. He felt that industrialization of AI and ML would lead to mass production and marketing of the technology which would lead to industry-wide adoption.

He eventually returned to CMU and conducted studies into AI programs. He eventually reached upon a realization inspired by his team’s AI Infrastructure model. He associated this to his passion for music. This model reminded him of his favorite violin piece by Niccolo Paganini and symphonic piece by Johann Strauss II. Both these pieces are Perpetuum mobile compositions.

The breakthrough implementation of AI for enterprise at CMU led to Xing founding a company with a mission. He took another sabbatical from CMU and established Petuum.

How do they do it?

Petuum believes that AI needs to reach many to benefit a wider population across the globe. The company does this by transforming AI into an industrial technology which includes standardized processes, software design tools, building blocks for data processing and ML. This helps enterprises to consistently mass-produce AI solutions at a low cost and at the same time support varying data sizes with high task accuracy.

The company also focuses on supporting training programs for AI engineering which helps teach industrial subject matter to experts and business analysts who want to use AI. In this way, the company is playing a pivotal role in the integration of AI into the foundation of every industry.

The road ahead

The company has had the backing of big names. Among its investors are Softbank, Tencent Holdings, Oriza Ventures, Advantech Capital and Northern Light Venture Capital. The company has thus far raised as much as $108 million and is one of the highest-funded AI and ML startups in the world. The company was named to be among the 61 startups from all over the world as a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum.

Meet the pioneer

Eric Xing, CEO and Chief Scientist

Mr. Xing is a true pioneer whose interests range from development of machine learning and statistical methodology to large-scale computational systems. He is one of the foremost minds in the field of computer science. The csrankings.org ranks him as the #1 computer science professor worldwide.

Among the most prestigious awards received by the virtuoso are: National Science Foundation (NSF) Career Award, the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in Computer Science, and the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator Award.

He earned his undergraduate degree from Tsinghua University. He holds a PhD in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from the State University of New Jersey, and a PhD in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.

Awards and Recognition

- Eric Xing’s leadership at Petuum was recognized recently when he was named the winner of 2019 Carnegie Science Award for Startup Entrepreneurs

- The company was included in the list of 100 most promising private AI companies by CB Insights’ AI 100 in 2017

- Petuum was recognized as the Innovator of the Year for AI/ Robotics in the 2018 Tech 50 Awards by the Pittsburgh Technology Council  

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