Clarifai, an AI startup focused on image recognition software, launched a new Washington, D.C.-based business unit that will compete for defense and intelligence contracts, Bloomberg reported. The announcement comes amid a backlash at companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon against selling technology to the military.
Clarifai is part of Project Maven, a Pentagon program which uses AI to analyze drone footage, and its involvement was reportedly upsetting to some employees. But it might have been a simple business calculation for five-year-old Clarifai, which has raised $40 million but hasn’t had a new round in more than two years.
Another explanation: Clarifai CEO Matt Zeiler did two AI internships at Google and was heavily recruited by the company, but chose to forge his own path. Now that Google has decided to pull out of Project Maven next year, the door is open for Clarifai to fill the gap.