AI-Powered Headroom raises $5m seed round

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Headroom an AI-powered platform has raised a seed round of $5 million to gear up to launch its freemium service into the world.

The funding is coming from Anna Patterson of Gradient Ventures, Google’s  AI venture fund; Evan Nisselson of LDV Capital, Yahoo founder Jerry Yang, now of AME Cloud Ventures; Ash Patel of Morado Ventures; Anthony Goldbloom, the co-founder and CEO of Kaggle.com; and Serge Belongie, Cornell Tech associate dean and professor of Computer Vision and Machine Learning.

Headroom not only hosts videoconferences, but then provides transcripts, summaries with highlights, gesture recognition, and optimized video quality.

You might think that leaving their jobs to build an improved video conferencing service was an opportunistic move, given the huge surge of use that the medium has had this year. Green, however, tells me that they came up with the idea and started building it at the end of 2019, when the term “COVID-19” didn’t even exist.

“But it certainly has made this a more interesting area,” he quipped, adding that it did make raising money significantly easier, too.Green said the reasons were two-fold. The first has to do with the efficiency of building something when you are small. “I enjoy moving at startup speed,” he said. And the second has to do with the challenges of building things on legacy platforms versus fresh, from the ground up.

“Google can do anything it wants,” he replied when I asked why he didn’t think of bringing these ideas to the team working on Meet (or Hangouts if you’re a non-business user). “But to run real-time AI on video conferencing, you need to build for that from the start. We started with that assumption,” he said.

All the same, the reasons why Headroom are interesting are also likely going to be the ones that will pose big challenges for it. The new ubiquity (and our present lives working at home) might make us more open to using video calling, but for better or worse, we’re all also now pretty used to what we already use. And for many companies, they’ve now paid up as premium users to one service or another, so they may be reluctant to try out new and less-tested platforms.

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