News

Oasis Labs raises $45M for ‘privacy-first’ cloud

Oasis Labs Inc., a startup co-founded and led by Prof. Dawn Song to build a high-performance cloud computing platform on blockchain, announced that it has raised $45 million in funding. Oasis is building a cloud-based blockchain platform intended to outdo existing distributed-ledger implementations in two key areas: performance and privacy. Song elaborated in a statement that “the Oasis platform aims to give users control over their data, without the underperformance and lack of privacy of existing blockchain platforms.”  The funding round saw the participation of more than 70 investors including Accel and a16z crypto, an Andreesson Horowitz fund.

Startup Elph secures $875K in pre-seed funding

The House Fund has backed a $875,000 pre-seed round for Elph, a startup co-founded by two EECS alumni:  Ritik Malhotra (B.S. '15) and Tanooj Luthra (B.S. '13).  Elph operates a portal for accessing decentralized apps known as Ethereum dApps.  It provides a place to store digital assets (cryptocurrencies, tokens, collectibles), find dApps without having to scour the web, and use them natively.  Elph also plans to roll out a software development tool to simplify the process of building dApps.  The House Fund is a berkeley-based AI-focused startup accelerator.

AJ Shankar's startup Everlaw raises $25M in series B funding

Everlaw, a legal-tech startup founded by alumnus AJ Shankar (CS Ph.D. '09, advisor: Rastislav Bodik), has raised $25 million in a series B funding round.  Berkeley-based Everlaw was established in 2011 as a cloud-based e-discovery platform that lets lawyers easily organize and search through millions of documents, videos, emails, and pictures exchanged between legal teams before a trial.  Shankar, the company's CEO, said the money will be used to invest in AI which which they hope can be used to determine what documents will be a priority or what documents should be looked at next. The funding round was led by existing investors and Silicon Valley venture firm Andreeseen Horowitz.

Alessandro Chiesa named one of MIT TR's 35 Innovators Under 35

CS Assistant Prof. Alessandro Chiesa has been named to the 2018 roster of MIT Technology Review's "35 Innovators Under 35."  The list acknowledges "exceptionally talented young innovators whose work we believe has the greatest potential to transform the world."  Chiesa, who co-founded Zcash, was cited in the Pioneers category for "a cryptocurrency that’s as private as cash."  Zcash employs a cryptographic protocol called a succinct zero-knowledge proof--an efficient way to convince both parties to a transaction that something is true without divulging any other information. It allows people to do transactions online without risking their privacy or exposing themselves to identity theft.  Launched 4 years ago, Zcash now has a market cap of over a billion dollars.

John Schulman named MIT TR Pioneering Innovator Under 35

CS alumnus John Schulman (Ph.D. '16, adviser: Pieter Abbeel) has been named to MIT Technology Review's 2018 list of "35 Innovators Under 35," an honor which recognizes "exceptionally talented young innovators whose work we believe has the greatest potential to transform the world."  Schulman, whose dissertation was on "Optimizing Expectations: From Deep Reinforcement Learning to Stochastic Computation Graphs," is cited in the Pioneer category for "training AI to be smarter and better, one game of Sonic the Hedgehog at a time."   He is the co-founder of OpenAI, where he has created some key algorithms in reinforcement learning: he trains AI agents in the same way you might train a dog, by offering a treat for a correct response--in this case, by racking up a high score in a video game.  These algorithms, once trained, might be applied in the real world, where they can be used to improve robot locomotion.

Siemens to acquire startup Comfy

German conglomerate Siemens announced it will acquire Comfy, an Oakland-based startup co-founded in 2012 by two CS alumni, Andrew Krioukov (M.S. '13) and Stephen Dawson-Haggerty (Ph.D. '14).  Both students were advised by David Culler.  Comfy (formerly named Building Robotics) is an end-to-end solution utilizing sensors and smart technology to control all aspects of the workplace environment, allowing office workers to not just control temperature and lighting but determine whether a room is currently empty.  This comprehensive approach has helped Comfy land numerous tech giant clients, including Microsoft, Intel, Salesforce and Infosys.  "Our unique strength is that we have, from the beginning, focused on the end user experience," explained Krioukov. "The building of the future that we envision is one that from the moment you walk into work, it knows who you are and what you're doing that day."  The purchase is part of Siemens' expansion into smart building strategies.

Oasis Labs ICO is raising funds for Ekiden

The Oasis Labs ICO is raising funds for Ekiden, a next generation blockchain built to address the issues of scalability and security in a low cost manner. Ekiden's decoupled architecture addresses the issues of throughput and security by combining the blockchain with an offchain EVM-scaling solution.  The Oasis Labs team, which is led by Prof. Dawn Song (the co-director of the Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Contracts), and includes post-doctoral researcher Raymond Cheng and graduate student Noah Johnson, brings a unique combination of both theoretical and applied expertise to the table--as well as experience founding successful tech start-ups.  Oasis Labs is rated in the top 5% of ICOs by Crypto Briefing.

The legacy of Margo Seltzer

CS alumna Margo I. Seltzer (Ph.D. '92, advisor: Michael Stonebraker) is the subject of a Harvard Crimson article celebrating her contributions to that institution.  Seltzer, who until this year had been a professor at Harvard and the director of the Center for Research on Computation and Society, is also the president of USENIX and an architect at Oracle.  She is moving to Vancouver to take part in Canada 150, a multi-million dollar federal research program at the University of British Columbia.  Seltzer founded a startup called Sleepycat Software in 1996 to develop and support “Berkeley DB,”  a high-performance software used to generate databases.  Across the arc of her career, Seltzer balanced teaching commitments with founding and running a startup, broke gender barriers while pushing for gender parity, and helped shape the rise of Harvard Computer Science. She was the first woman to serve as conductor of the Harvard University band and the second woman in Harvard history to earn tenure in the CS department.

Microsoft acquires Semantic Machines

Semantic Machines, an artificial intelligence startup co-founded by Prof. Dan Klein and staffed by a number of EECS alumni, has been acquired by Microsoft to help Cortana hold more natural dialog with users.  The team has built a number of machine learning components which work together for a smarter AI, and move beyond the more basic back-and-forth currently supported by the Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Amazon’s Alexa.

In addition to Klein, the team includes Percy Liang (Ph.D. '11), David Hall (Ph.D. '12), Adam Pauls (Ph.D. '12), David Burkett (Ph.D. '12), Jason Wolfe (Ph.D. '11 adviser: Stuart Russell), Yuchen Zhang (Ph.D. '16), Taylor Berg-Kirkpatrick (B.A. '08/Ph.D. '15), Greg Durrett (Ph.D. '16), Alex Nisnevich (M.S. '14), current grad student Jacob Andreas, Charles Chen (B.A. CS/Math '11), Andrew Nguyen (B.A. CS/Linguistics '12), Chuck Wooters (Ph.D. Speech Recognition '93), and consultant Prof. Michael Jordan.

SiFive receives $50.6M in series C funding

SiFive, a fabless provider of customized semiconductors built on research by alumnus Yunsup Lee (MS '11/Ph.D. '16), alumnus Andrew Waterman (M.S. '11/Ph.D. '16), and Prof. Krste Asanović, received $50.6M in series C funding in April.  Lee is Chief Technology Officer,  Waterman is Chief Engineer, and Asanović is Chief Architect at SiFive. The funding round was co-led by Osage University Partners, Sutter Hill Ventures, Spark Capital, and Intel Capital.  SiFive's semiconductors are built on Risc-V, an instruction set architecture (ISA), which acts as the conduit between a computer's software and hardware.  The series C round is being used to commercialize additional products based on Risc-V.  The company has raised $64.1M in funding to date.