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Tencent, Pearson Among Backers of $100 Million U.K. AI Startup

Jeremy Kahn

(Bloomberg) -- Prowler.io, an artificial intelligence company based in Cambridge, England, has been valued at $100 million following a funding round involving a group of investors that includes Chinese technology giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Pearson Plc.

The company uses AI to help businesses make decisions about everything from rebalancing financial portfolios to managing supply chains and logistics, it said in a statement on Monday.

Prowler said it’s receiving $24 million in new funding and that Tencent led the investment round with participation from Pearson and others including Amadeus Capital Partners, Atlantic Bridge, Cambridge Innovation Capital, Mandatum Life, Passion Capital, RB Capital and Singapore Innovate.

The AI company said it will use the money to launch products and move into new industry areas, including education. It described some of the participants in the current funding round as “strategic investors,” declining to specify which of the firms it viewed in this way. Pearson is an education company, and Mandatum Life, a Finnish asset manager and insurance firm, has used Prowler’s software previously.

Ling Ge, Tencent’s chief European representative, said in a statement that the Chinese company is “looking forward to Prowler.io applying its AI decision platform to a broadening range of customers, potentially including some of Tencent’s affiliate companies.” Ge said that Prowler’s focus on data-efficient learning methods and “human-machine teaming” set it apart from other AI companies.

The company’s AI decision-making platform, which it calls VUKU, has been used by other Nordic asset managers to do risk modeling and portfolio optimization and also by Barcelona-based delivery startup Paack to plan optimal routes for its drivers.

Unlike many AI companies that use supervised machine-learning techniques that rely on vast amounts of data, Prowler’s software uses unsupervised methods based on a field of mathematics that deals with probabilities and doesn’t require massive data sets. Its decision-making software also relies on reinforcement learning –- in which software learns from experience rather than data –- as well as game theory.

“This investment is a huge sign of confidence in our efforts,” Vishal Chatrath, Prowler’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said in the statement.

Chatrath and one of the company’s other three co-founders, Dongho Kim, Prowler’s chief technology officer, are veterans of VocalIQ, a Cambridge speech technology company that Apple Inc. acquired in 2015 just 13 months after its founding and whose technology Apple is believed to have used to enhance its Siri digital assistant.

Founded in 2016, Prowler has 110 employees. It had previously raised $15 million in venture capital.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeremy Kahn in London at jkahn21@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at gturner35@bloomberg.net, James Amott, Brian Wingfield

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