IBM Leads $15M Funding Round for AI Programming Startup

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.

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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.

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