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"Making software," the AI-powered, developer-assisted platform says is "as easy as ordering a pizza"
One of Europe’s largest Series A fundraisings, totaling $29.5 million, was announced this week by Engineer.ai, which builds AI-powered, human-assisted tools for software development and aims to make it easy for anyone to create software faster and cheaper while bypassing coding.
The round was led by Lakestar, an early-stage European VC firm that’s backed Skype, Spotify, Facebook, and Airbnb, and Singapore’s Jungle Ventures, with participation from Softbank’s AI unit DeepCore, marking its first investment outside Japan. The investment was announced on Tuesday at the WebSummit conference in Lisbon.
Sachin Dev Duggal, serial entrepreneur and the founder of Engineer.ai, compares its technology to an iPhone.
A user would build a software with Engineer.ai’s Builder platform, upgrade for protection with BuilderCare, and buy features such as hosting, microservices, and marketing in the same way that one would get an iPhone, upgrade with AppleCare, and purchase extras from the AppStore, he explained.
The company, currently in its high-growth, customer-acquisition stage, is looking to expand globally, both in terms of hiring developers and growing its client base.
About the lead investors in this funding, Duggal said Lakestar provides Engineer.ai mentorship and strategic access to clients, while Jungle Ventures provides “massive” subject-matter expertise, as well as access to markets in Southeast Asia. Manu Gupta from Lakestar and Amit Singh from Jungle are taking a seat on the board of the startup.
Post-money, the company's valuation is at $70 million.
Engineer.ai, headquartered in London and Los Angeles, also has offices in Delhi and Tokyo. At the time Duggal gave an interview to VatorNews, he was in India, where the Builder platform launched in June.
VatorNews: Who is Engineer.ai’s target consumer? What sort of software products can you create with Builder?
Sachin Dev Duggal: The beauty of Engineer's Builder platform is that it can build bespoke software products for everyone – from the "solopreneur" to the SMB (small and midsized business) to the enterprise.
It is delivering a fairly uniform, yet customized, solution for building apps and websites.
However, our sweet spot is the SME (small- to medium-sized enterprises), which may have thought building an app was out of their reach due to lack of technical know-how. Now, they have a way to turn their ideas into a reality.
VN: Who are your competitors and how is Engineer.ai’s Builder different from other software developers?
SDD: At a certain level, we compete with Gigster, albeit we have taken a very different approach.
We operate on a massive scale, with access to 32,000 developers and designers. We have over 500 building blocks that save our customers paying for features like code and design that we have already done. The developer shops thus also don't compete with us as we buy capacity from them and will soon be offering them a way to partner.
To operate at this scale, we have a number of the AI stack already in use (machine learning, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), convolutional neural networks, clustering, and operations research).
From a customer product and business delivery perspectives, our biggest differentiator is that we are a turnkey platform for everyone building and running bespoke software.
This is effectively a new kind of SaaS where its custom software is not just a vanilla service and where you don't need to hire an agency to do the work for you.
That being said, right now, there is no true competition for Engineer.ai other than app development shops that do things the old way, by paying developers to build everything from scratch and charging you for it.
When you build your app on Builder, it guarantees a price online and even offers a rebate if a project is ready before time.
VN: How many subscribers does your product have?
SDD: Engineer.ai has already attracted hundreds of customers across many geographies, from e-commerce and m-commerce platforms to social apps, which have used Builder to create products including BBC, DiditFor, Virgin, Manscore, and ZikTruck.
VN: What’s pricing like?
SDD: Since we create custom software products, the pricing varies. It can range from under $10,000 for a basic app to over $100,000 for a more complex application.
The prices are based on variables like where the development talent is based, how fast the project needs to be done, how many unique features need to be built from scratch, etc.
VN: How do you plan to use the proceeds of your Series A round?
SDD: The funding will be used to grow the platform and expand our roster of engineering talent worldwide.
We'll also use it for marketing to the mainstream, where entire categories of companies that didn't consider developing apps before now can.
We're bridging the gap between an idea and a software product.
VN: What are some of the company’s long-term plans? Where do you see the company in five years?
SDD: In five years, we expect to be the technology partner of choice for SMBs and enterprises across key North American, European, and Asian markets, as well as the software solution of choice for dreamers around the world.
VN: What excites you the most about your role at Engineer.ai?
SDD: We have the opportunity to disrupt the software industry as we know it.
We can bring bespoke software and customized functionality to individuals and companies for whom it has been out of reach to date.
We believe we can fuel a change in how people build and leverage software and trigger a new generation of software-based businesses.
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Led by serial entrepreneur Sachin Dev Duggal, Engineer.ai was created with the belief that everyone should be able to build their ideas without needing to code and any idea brought to life without wastage of time, money or resources.
Bootstrapped since its inception in January 2012, Engineer.ai is a global company with split headquarters in Los Angeles and London, supported by offices in Delhi and Tokyo. With over $24M in Gross Revenue, and customers that include the BBC, Virgin Group and the San Francisco Giants, Engineer.ai is reshaping how Bespoke Software is built and operated.