5 Artificial Intelligence Startups to Watch

artificial intelligence startups

Last year, VC’s invested about US$ 5 billion in artificial intelligence startups. In light of the plethora of misconceptions around artificial intelligence across the ecosystem, that’s good news. It also speaks to the growing belief that humanity’s individuality and free will not, as previously thought & propagated, be threatened by artificial intelligence.

1. Persado

This starts at the top of the customer and buyer decision journey, to look at how words and phrases impact calls to action. Persado is a cognitive content platform for marketers, it’s technology generates language that inspires action and increases ROI. The data set of what wordings and phrases evoke the responses that every brand wants is a goldmine is wording sentiment. As the MENA region is primarily speaking English as a 2nd or 3rd language, knowing the attribution of words to their associations, positive & negative, is something all marketers need, more so in a post-Amazon-Souq world. It’s the difference between using the word “contribute” instead of the word “donate”. The former can mean “be the change you wish to see in the world” and the latter can mean “give me your money, punk”. All in all, A/B tests show that the former drove qualified actions for the 2008 Obama campaign, and the rest – as they say – is history.

2. Appier

To date, they have raised US$ 48.5 million from Pavilion Capital and Sequoia Capital. Appier helps its clients optimise advertising ROI by delivering the right ad to the right person at the right time across screens. They do this by taking predictive analytics to a whole new level. Appier follows the digital journey of an audience member. Like Google’s “in-market segment” data, Applier creates patterns which inform real-time advertising optimisation engines about what stage of the customer journey the target is in. Based on that, ads that are contextually relevant are served. The idea is nothing new, the AI element of the execution is, and in that lies the difference. Just like C2, Appier holds data on purchase frequency and complimentary products, which means that the buyer of shoes will not see ads for shoes for at least three months, but they will for colourful laces, socks, and shoe cleaning services. In a world where advertisers are scrambling to effectively battle ad fraud, services such as Appier appear to be the answer for contextual targeting backed by purchase ability.

3. Tagxit

This MENA based camera app is one of the hottest artificial intelligence startups to come out in 2017. It applies deep learning to improve image classification and categorisation to associate names and sentiments with specific images. Tagxit is banking on the never ending hunt for social currency by millennials. By capturing and categorising images taken and building an aspirational profile based on the locations & experiences captured, GCC companies working with the camera app have successfully executed activations and mystery shopper activities, while seamlessly recording the visual data points. Depending on what categorisation is used on an image or experience, companies are tapping into location-based search marketing to redirect Tagxit users to their outlets or services, depending on the intent of phrases used.

4. Drawbridge

While the advertising industry rewards reach, the reluctance to adjust campaigns with frequency capping leads to an ad being served to the same person across all their devices. Drawbridge is a programmatic advertising technology that claims, with a patent, to be able to map out all devices of a site visitor to help advertisers effectively cap ad frequency and reach a target segment across devices, while ensuring the ad is native to the device.

5. InsideSales.com

Representing the conversion side of the marketing funnel, InsideSales.com is one of the most valuable artificial intelligence startups, in that it has traction. It also has Microsoft as an investor which means that Dynamic CRM is part of the predictive analytics that enables smarter lead qualification by analysing all the variables. As regions, such as MENA, experience an economic slowdown, companies will need to deploy their time and resources effectively, tapping into tools such as InsideSales to help them manage expectations.


Artificial intelligence startups are part of the new normal, taking the guesswork out of creative. By knowing what words & phrases drive action, what words & sentiments people associate to images & experience, what behaviours people exhibit across devices, and recognising when not to advertise, marketers in & out of the GCC region have the opportunity to leverage a data mine.

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Hamna Anwar

About the Author Hamna Anwar

Hamna Anwar is the director of innovation at Centric, leading projects around digital startups and helping them achieve commercial success with localised business models. She can be reached on [email protected]