Appen buys Figure Eight for $175mn to create solution for machine learning training data

Mark Brayan of Appen

Appen Ltd, a global provider of human-annotated datasets for machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), has agreed to acquire Figure Eight, a machine learning software platform which uses automated tools to transformunlabelled text, image, audio, and video data into AI training data.

This acquisition combines the scale, quality and language expertise of Appen’s global crowd with Figure Eight’s data annotation platform to create an end-to-end training data offering. The unified business will be positioned to deliver the increasing volume, quality and speed requirements for training data to support machine learning and AI.

Founded in San Francisco in 2007, Figure Eight (previously known as CrowdFlower) has played a critical role in the artificial intelligence ecosystem, having delivered 325 million human judgements in 2018 alone. Figure Eight has released a variety of  capabilities to enhance its platform – including machine learning-assisted data labelling and video object tracking – that can create training datasets up to 50 times faster than human labelling alone.

Based in Sydney, Australia and listed on the Australian Securities Exchange with offices worldwide, Appen deploys its global crowd of more than 1 million contractors, working in over 180 languages and more than 130 countries, to support its global customer base that includes eight of the world’s 10 largest technology companies.

“The union of Appen and Figure Eight creates a unique, exciting and powerful opportunity for our customers,” says Mark Brayan, Appen’s chief executive officer. “We now have the best of both worlds: our highly efficient cloud management platform and scalable, skillful multilingual crowd, combined with Figure Eight’s innovative customer facing SaaS platform with ML-assisted annotation. Combined, we’ll meet and exceed our customers’ scale, speed and quality requirements.”

“We’re very excited to be joining Appen,” said Lukas Biewald, co-founder of Figure Eight. “I’m extremely proud of the team. This is a genuine validation of everything we’ve achieved and a great platform for our teams to combine and continue to do amazing things in AI.”

Until the end of 2019, Figure Eight will operate largely independently as a division of Appen to ensure it remains focused on its product development and customers. From 2020, Figure Eight’s experienced team and powerful technology will be integral to Appen’s future success.

Appen will pay US$175 million (€155 million) up-front for Figure Eight and an additional payment of up to $125 million (€111 million) in 2020 based on 2019 performance.

Appen is being advised by Atlas Technology Group of San Francisco.

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