Innovation & Enterprise


UCL spinout company Hazy wins Innovate.AI competition and $1 million investment

1 May 2018

Hazy (formerly Anon AI), a UCLB spinout company, has won this year’s Microsoft Innovate.AI competition. Hazy’s software aims to help developers and data scientists to share information securely.

As winners of Innovate.IA's European category, Hazy receives $1 million of investment from M12 (formerly Microsoft Ventures) in partnership with Notion Capital. Innovate.AI is a global competition launched and supported by M12. Its goal is to recognise and award capital to high-potential artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning startups.

During the competition, ten finalists from three regions - North America, Europe and Israel - participated in a live pitch-off. Having shared their ideas, the pitches were evaluated by a panel of experts from Microsoft and Notion Capital, the competition’s local venture capital manager partner.

This $1 million funding injection follows the £340,000 pre-seed funding Hazy raised in January 2018 (via a funding round led by the UCLB-managed UCL Technology Fund and Albion Capital). The combined investments will allow Hazy to enhance its prototype model and build a ‘best in class’ developer tool.

In addition to the $1 million investment, Hazy will also benefit from $500,000 worth of Microsoft Azure credits for three years, 100 Microsoft Office 365 licenses for one year, and an Azure Standard support plan.

Commenting on their win, Hazy CEO Harry Keen said: “This award is both an excellent achievement and an immense boost, which provides a platform to drive our growth strategy. $1 million investment is transformational for our company and will enable us to further improve our developer tools and engage with a greater range of clients and prospects. Competition was extremely tough and we are grateful that Microsoft has recognised the potential of our software.”

Demystifying Hazy

Hazy is a UK startup, founded by two experienced software entrepreneurs, in collaboration with Dr Fintan Nagle, a UCL machine learning researcher. CTO James Arthur is a software developer and was previously CTO and co-founder of Opendesk. CEO Harry Keen is an engineer and developer who studied machine learning at Stanford.

Fintan, James and Harry were united by a single problem in their enterprising journey: data anonymisation should be an issue that’s addressed by computers but at present it isn’t. In order to find a solution, they created Hazy: smart software that makes intelligent decisions based on a synthesised understanding of content, structure and context. Hazy simply carries out the intentions of the user once they’ve been expressed.

Hazy's software automates the anonymisation of data, which enables developers and data scientists to share information securely. Personal data protection is currently a significant concern for industry and enterprise. As GDPR’s implementation date of 25 May 2018 fast approaches, the requirement to attain and maintain data security has never been higher on the agendas of European businesses.

Fintan is already excited about the opportunity to work closely with one of the biggest tech giants in the world: “It's fantastic that Microsoft shares our belief that privacy, anonymisation and the protection of personal data is key to the future of big data. Working with Microsoft gives us substantial resources and guidance as we explore new ways to apply machine learning to data privacy.”

Talking about the support Hazy has received from UCL Innovation & Enterprise, Fintan said: “The department provided invaluable support in developing our product and bringing it to market and we look forward to working with UCLB as we take on new challenges.”

Highlighting the potential of AI

Hazy was named as one of ten European finalists shortlisted for the Innovate.AI global startup competition on 14 March 2018. The competition highlights the great breadth of innovation through the application of artificial intelligence that exists across many global industries including healthcare, financial services, human resources, sales and retail.

M12 has invested in more than 40 startups since its launch in March 2016. This portfolio includes AI innovators such as Agolo, Bonsai, Crowdflower and Livongo. It has also formed an AI fund to support startups focused on inclusive growth and a positive impact on society. 

UCL Innovation & Enterprise is excited to see what winning such an accolade and being in such fantastic entrepreneurial company within M12’s portfolio does for Hazy in both the near and distant future.


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