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Phaidra co-founders Katherine Hoffman (left), Jim Gao (top right), and Vedavyas Panneershelvam. (Phaidra Photos)

New funding: Phaidra, a startup that launched in 2019 and is building AI tech for industrial customers, raised $4 million. The round was led by Seattle-based Flying Fish, which also led the company’s pre-seed round in May 2020. Section 32, Character, Starshot Capital, and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban also invested.

The software: Phaidra analyzes massive amounts of sensor data and creates intelligent AI agents that automatically control and optimize complex industrial facilities. Customers use Phaidra to improve energy efficiency and sustainability; increase plant safety and stability; and maximize yield.

It will use the fresh cash to accelerate growth in industries such as process heating and cooling, chemical manufacturing, and paper and pulp.

Leadership: The 15-person company is led by Jim Gao and Vedavyas Panneershelvam, two former employees at DeepMind, the Alphabet-owned AI research hub, as well as Katherine Hoffman, a defense and HVAC industry veteran.

“Our goal is to become the future of industrial automation,” Gao said.

Gao led a 14-person team at DeepMind focused on building AI tech for the energy sector. It helped reduce Google’s data center cooling energy consumption by 40%. DeepMind, acquired by Alphabet-owned Google in 2014, is famous for developing the AlphaGo program that beat a human world champion.

The company’s leadership is in Seattle but it describes itself as an all-remote team.

Pandemic impact: Gao said the pandemic accelerated digital transformation plans for many industrial companies. “The companies we work with view Phaidra’s intelligence services (i.e. converting sensor data into optimal actions) as a critical competitive edge,” he said.

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