AI Startup Boom Raises Questions of Exaggerated Tech Savvy
SoftBank-backed startup offers ‘human-assisted’ artificial-intelligence; current, former employees say company inflates its tech expertise. WSJ reports: Startup Engineer.ai says it uses artificial-intelligence technology to largely automate the development of mobile apps, but several current and former employees say the company exaggerates its AI capabilities to attract customers and investors. The competing claims reflect a growing challenge in the tech world of assessing a company’s proficiency in Artificial Intelligence, which refers to technologies that can allow computers to learn or perform tasks typically requiring human decision makers — in many cases helping companies save money or better target consumers. Because AI technology is complex and loosely defined, nonexperts can find it hard to discern when it is being deployed. Still, money is flowing into the sector, and many startups can say they use AI as a way to lure investments or corporate clients even when such claims are difficult to vet.
London and Los Angeles-based Engineer.ai raised $29.5 million last year from investors including Deepcore, a wholly owned subsidiary of SoftBank. Other backers include Zurich-based venture-capital firm Lakestar — an early investor in Facebook and Airbnb — and Singapore-based Jungle Ventures. Engineer.ai was spun out of an earlier company in 2016, the company has said. When announcing its funding last year, it said it had notched $24 million in revenue while self-funding its operations. Engineer.ai says its “human-assisted AI” allows anyone to create a mobile app by clicking through a menu on its w