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SoftBank leads $93 million investment in Petuum’s AI platform

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Petuum, a startup that aims to provide enterprises with the tools they need to deploy machine learning, announced today that it has raised a whopping $93 million series B funding round, led by SoftBank.

The funds will be used primarily to hire engineers, salespeople, and marketers, as Petuum works to commercialize its software, according to Eric Xing, the company’s founder and CEO.

Petuum is working to create a platform for building machine learning and deep learning applications through its own custom virtualization and operating system. The company is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and is staffed by people from Carnegie Mellon University, where Xing is a tenured professor of Computer Science.

The company’s location has been a boon, Xing said. Petuum relies on engineers with rigorous training and discipline, and CMU’s history of artificial intelligence research means that Petuum has qualified technical talent available to it.

What’s more, the location doesn’t seem to be an impediment to fundraising. Xing said that multiple investors came calling just months after the company closed its $15 million series A last year.

In addition to SoftBank, the round included participation from returning investor Advantech Capital, and others.

This investment wasn’t part of SoftBank’s famed $100 billion Vision Fund, but rather comes as part of the company’s normal investing activities.

The move is consistent with SoftBank’s other venture investing activities — the company is not averse to putting large amounts of money into businesses it sees as working on the cutting edge of emerging technologies, like artificial intelligence.

Right now, Petuum is working with a group of customers to beta test its product and help shape the software it’s building. Xing wouldn’t name names, but he said his company is working toward building solutions for the health care and manufacturing sectors, among others.

Details on Petuum’s customers might be available later next year, Xing said. The company is in the process of building out an office in Silicon Valley, in addition to its headquarters in Pittsburgh.

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