Startup Spice AI Inc., which is working to ease the development of blockchain applications, today announced that it has secured a $13.5 million seed round led by Madrona Venture Group.
More than a half dozen other investors participated in the round alongside Madrona. The group included Thomas Dohmke, chief executive of Microsoft Corp.’s GitHub subsidiary, as well as multiple institutional investors.
Seattle-based Spice AI offers a cloud platform that promises to simplify the task of building blockchain applications. Additionally, the platform enables developers to equip their software with artificial intelligence features.
Blockchain implementations generate data that can be useful for application projects. The Ethereum blockchain, for example, provides access to data about cryptocurrency transactions. Ethereum transaction records can be used by cryptocurrency applications for tasks such as monitoring digital asset prices.
Incorporating blockchain information into an application usually requires a significant amount of manual work. Developers have to collect the information, stream it to a centralized data environment and organize it into a form that facilitates processing. Each step of the process often requires a separate software tool.
Spice AI’s platform, which is currently in preview, promises to automate the task of adding blockchain data to applications. The platform gathers data from popular blockchains such as Ethereum and makes it accessible through relatively simple application programming interfaces. According to Spice AI, its APIs are easier to use than the tools that developers typically rely on to carry out the task.
The APIs make it possible to interact with blockchain data using the widely-used SQL query language. According to the startup, developers can not only access information but also combine disparate records and perform other data operations. Spice AI says that its platform can run a query on as many as millions of records in a few seconds.
Spice AI makes blockchain information collected by its platform accessible in the Apache Arrow data format. The format includes optimizations that speed up certain analytics tasks. Developers can alternatively have the platform organize data in the JSON format, which is also widely used by analytics applications.
Some applications that process blockchain data include machine learning features. To ease the development of such software, Spice AI has created an open-source tool called Spice that automates some of the tasks involved in implementing machine learning algorithms. According to the startup, the tool can be deployed as a software container and supports several popular AI development frameworks.
Spice AI was launched last year by Chief Executive Officer Luke Kim and Chief Technology Officer Phillip LeBlanc. Kim previously co-founded Microsoft’s Azure Incubations unit, which develops new technologies for the company’s Azure public cloud. LeBlanc held engineering roles at Microsoft and GitHub.
“There is no ecosystem out there that is more data-rich than Web3 and blockchains, but that area is currently hampered by lack of data access and infrastructure,” Kim said. “Solving the data problem in Web3 requires deep domain knowledge and Spice AI is building the infrastructure, so developers do not have to deal with the complexity of building it themselves.”
Spice AI has reportedly signed up 10 customers to its platform since launching last year. Those customers include companies in markets such as the financial services, fraud detection and retail segments. To grow its market presence, Spice AI plans to hire more employee as well as expand its operations in Asia and Australia.