On 8 January 2019, a new Singapore-based AI startup called BasisAI raised S$8.2 million (US$6 million) in a seed funding round backed by Temasek and Sequoia India.
It’s the second largest seed round raised by a Singapore startup, and it’s also noteworthy that they’ve gained the confidence of their prestigious investors, which have been better known to back more established or mature-stage companies.
According to their press release, BasisAI’s mission is to build “scalable and accountable machine-learning products”.
Their solutions aim to enable internet companies to accelerate growth and personalisation, and help traditional enterprises that are “retooling digitally”.
Their idea of scalability and accountability comes into importance for companies to easily understand and explain how the AI product works, and apply it for operation on large scales.
The early-stage startup founders also say they have a common vision of becoming a “best-in-class, Singapore-headquartered AI technology company”.
So, who exactly are these founders who impressed Temasek and Sequoia India enough that they’d pump in millions to fund a brand new firm that just emerged?
Here’s what we know about the team behind BasisAI.
Liu Feng-Yuan, Linus Lee, and Silvanus Lee, are Singaporean data scientists with illustrious backgrounds in the industry.
While their startup has just surfaced onto the radar, they actually founded it 5 months ago, in September 2018.
Co-founder and CEO, 37-year-old Feng-Yuan, was formerly Director of Data Science and AI at GovTech, an agency under the Prime Minister’s Office that builds digital government services and is leading the push towards a Smart Nation.
Even before that, he’s spent most of his career in the public sector, having experience in the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Land Transport Authority (LTA), and even once being a delegate to the United Nations, when he negotiated Singapore’s position on international macroeconomics.
During his time with LTA, Feng-Yuan led a team to use data science to monitor and optimise transport performance.
When the Circle Line MRT system was struck with a mysterious serious of disruptions in 2016, he was called up to help solve the issue, even though he’d since already vacated his position in LTA and hopped over to GovTech.
While he was away and unable to help at that time, data scientists from Feng-Yuan’s team tracked down one train that was interfering with signals and causing other trains to activate emergency brakes, and the science behind it was explained in detail here.
Alongside him, 33-year-olds Linus and Silvanus Lee are the other two co-founders of BasisAI, and twin brothers who’ve returned to Singapore from Silicon Valley.
When Linus joined Twitter as a staff data scientist 2012, he was one of the first few on board, according to this 2016 interview, which meant getting down to lots of “grunt work” to get systems up in place.
His work encompassed analysing statistics in order to deliver business and product insights, working along with the product development department to shape the social networking site’s user experience.
In 2016, he came back to Singapore to build and lead Twitter’s first data science team in Asia Pacific. Altogether, he spent 6 and a half years at Twitter before leaving to start up with his brother and Feng-Yuan.
Silvanus Lee, on the other hand, has set foot in two major tech companies, file-sharing service Dropbox, and ride-hailing firm Uber, during his time in Silicon Valley.
At Dropbox, he built statistical models for consumer engagement and security, and later at Uber, became the Director of Data Science.
His work there was focused on using data to solve problems across all aspects of the firm’s product, leading a team of over 80 data scientists and engineers.
While BasisAI has declined to reveal more information about their upcoming plans and development till a later time, Silvanus explained in a separate interview that the startup already has some clients piloting their software now.
BasisAI is currently hiring, with software engineer, data scientist, machine learning engineer, and business strategist roles open on their website.
Featured Image Credit: The Politico Post