IBM Leads $15M Funding Round for AI Programming Startup

Sarah Thomas

IBM, Intel and others are pumping $15 million into Lightbend, the company behind the Scala programming language developers are using to build artificial intelligence applications that draw on real-time data. The funding, led by IBM, builds on a partnership it announced with the startup last month to advance the development of AI in the enterprise.

The $15 million series C1 funding round also included Bain Capital Ventures, Blue Cloud Ventures, Juniper Networks and Shasta Ventures.

Lightbend says it has more than 1 million developers already using its programming language, which is the basis for big data frameworks like Spark, Kafka and Akka. It's a developer pool that both IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) are keen to tap into as they help their customers make use of their customer and network data.

Lightbend founder Martin Odersky invented the Scala programming language, which is designed to help developers more quickly develop applications that are message-driven, elastic, resilient and responsive. In partnership with IBM, Lightbend is making its Reactive Platform available in the company's IBM Marketplace as an integrated bundle with WebSphere Application Server. Together, it says, Java and Scala developers get access to a complete tool chain to build and deploy AI and cognitive applications on-premises or in the cloud.

For more on artificial intelligence in the world of telecom, visit the dedicated automation content page here on Light Reading.

Through the investment and partnership, IBM and Lightbend say they will continue to create new code, tools and documentation that will help developers build Java- and Scala-based applications on the Lightbend Reactive Platform. They expect to integrate their platform across IBM Cloud, including app management services, the Watson Data Platform and the more than 150 services across cognitive intelligence, data analytics, Internet of Things, security, DevOps and blockchain available to developers through the IBM Cloud.

IBM and Lightbend's tie-up is aimed primarily at enterprise applications, but telcos are also employing AI based on Scala. For example, Lightbend works with both Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ). The Swiss telco used Lightbend's platform for urban planning, using its customer data to create an accurate population density map, carry out city planning and conduct intelligent traffic routing. Verizon also used Scala to launch its go90 mobile video service as a microservice.

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Director, Women in Comms

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User Rank: Light Sabre
7/22/2017 | 9:11:00 AM
Re: Foghorn?
AI is certainly the hot trend now. And the startup company "says it has more than 1 million developers already using its programming language," which should give them a step up in increasing interest, revenue, and moving the AI programming along nicely for IBM.
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/12/2017 | 2:50:27 PM
Re: Foghorn?
IBM is all-in on artificial intelligence. As such, it knows not all the innovation is going to come from big companies. 

This is why IBM is investing in Lightbend. Larger companies have to make these investments in order to thrive. 
Austin Idol
Austin Idol,
User Rank: Moderator
7/12/2017 | 1:56:13 PM
Re: Foghorn?
Great insight on the issue:
Austin Idol
Austin Idol,
User Rank: Moderator
7/12/2017 | 1:51:12 PM
Foghorn Leghorn? I'm a Chicken Hawk and you're a Chicken!!!
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas,
User Rank: Blogger
7/12/2017 | 9:30:45 AM
It's a good time to be an AI startup! It is clearly the hot tech right now and seems to be the future solution for everything from customer care to security. I wonder if an acquisition was on the table as well. Given the funding and how closely Lightbend already work together, it would make sense, but maybe not from Lightbend's perspective. 
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