Wicca Raises $140M As AI Boom Powers Data Platforms

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While a growing number of companies are investing in AI, many struggle to bring AI-powered projects to production – delivering little meaningful ROI.

The challenges are many. But a common recurring theme is data management. The data that companies need to train, operate, and fine-tune AI models is unstructured, siloed, and otherwise irrelevant. In a 2022 survey by Great Expectations, an open-source data benchmarking platform, 77% of organizations said they were concerned about the quality of their data.

Startups that promise to solve these data problems are raising funding.

On Wednesday, Wicca, a platform for building data pipelines that handle a range of data sources, types and sizes, announced that it had raised two tranches ($100 million and $40 million) led by Valor Equity Partners. million) raised $140 million in a Series E round. With participation from Nvidia, Norwest Venture Partners, Micron Ventures, Qualcomm Ventures, Hitachi Ventures and others. The oversubscribed round values ​​Vicca at $1.6 billion post-money, double the company's previous valuation.

Wicca CEO Liran Zobel and Wicca's other co-founders, Maur Ben-Dian and Omri Palmon, met while building data storage startup XIV, which was acquired by IBM in 2007 for $350 million. All three stayed with IBM for several years but eventually left to pursue other, independent projects.

However, he says the data management problem continued to plague Zvibel.

“I was frustrated and frustrated to see customers forced to use disparate, siled data infrastructure solutions that were cumbersome, expensive and complex to deploy, manage and maintain,” he said. “This problem became particularly evident with the rise of cloud computing and high-performance computing, machine learning and early AI workloads.”

So in 2013, Zvibel recruited Ben-Dayan and Palmon to build a new set of data tools — a set that could bring a better way to store, manage, and transmit data.

“We envisioned a powerful platform that could meet the performance demands of next-generation compute hardware and workloads involving large-scale data in demanding and distributed environments,” Zvibel. “To meet the needs of modern workloads, we knew it would need to process tens of terabytes of data and deploy anywhere.”

Wicca's core offering is a parallel file system, a type of distributed file system that can span and orchestrate data operations (e.g. copying files) across multiple locations (e.g. servers and workstations) at the same time. Is. On top of that, Wicca sells services and capabilities to support AI and machine learning, visual effects and high-performance compute workloads in environments spanning on-premises data centers, public clouds and hybrid clouds.

Zvibel claims that a key advantage of Weka's architecture is that it can speed up the training of AI models by reducing the time it takes to copy data to storage locations. “A typical generative AI data pipeline involves multiple steps of copying datasets, which wastes significant training time,” he said. “Weca continuously feeds the model training hardware with data to train models faster.”

Wicca competes with data platforms such as DataDirect, Pure Storage, NetApp and Vast Data. Vast is one of the strongest of the group, having closed a $118 million Series E funding round in December 2023 that tripled the startup's valuation to $9.1 billion.

But Wicca seems to be holding its own with a customer base of more than 300 brands, including AI startup Stability AI, 11 of the Fortune 50, and several undisclosed domestic and foreign government agencies.

Even with its relatively large headcount (~400 employees worldwide, with plans to grow that number by 25% next year), Zvibel said the Silicon Valley-based company now has cash flow through December 2024. has a “line of vision” for positivity. .

“The latest increase was calculated based on favorable market conditions and active investor interest, which enabled us to raise on the most favorable and advantageous terms for Vika,” he added. said “Our average burn rate is expected to be less than half a million per month before we reach this milestone. We have exceeded $100 million in annual recurring revenue and we have maintained an extremely high growth rate. It's happened.”

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