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$133 Million Pushes Industry AI Beyond Limits

 The big deal for artificial intelligence software developer Beyond Limits came in September in the form of $133 million.

The Glendale startup will use the venture capital for international expansion and in product development.

Chief Executive AJ Abdallat said the Series C financing came from a syndicate led by Group 42, a cloud computing company in Abu Dhabi, and BP Ventures, the corporate investment arm of global oil company BP plc in London. Cloud 42 will take a minority equity stake in the company.BP Ventures is a repeat investor in Beyond Limits, having put $20 million into the Series B round as well.

“I always say when your investor is investing again, it is a strong validation and a compliment to the company,” Abdallat said.Beyond Limits commercializes AI software developed by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada-Flintridge. The software is used in deep space missions, including on the Mars rovers. The company has an exclusive license from the California Institute of Technology, which manages JPL, for the AI software that is primarily used in the energy, health care, finance and logistics industries.

Its products are a blend of technologies that, when applied to large data sets, parses through them in a way that is very similar to the human brain, but much more efficient, according to the company.Martin Edelman, general counsel for Group 42, said the firm looked forward to working with Beyond Limits and exploring the many capabilities of its technology.

“We believe Beyond Limits’ unique AI will bring new levels of efficiency to high-impact sectors and help drive future economic growth,” Edelman said in a statement.  Morag Watson, senior vice president of digital science and engineering at BP, said the company’s venture arm was set up to identify and invest in high-potential technology companies that can help reimagine the global energy system.  “With this additional investment, we believe that Beyond Limits’ Cognitive AI could help create a more intelligent and sustainable future for the energy sector and indeed across industry as a whole,” Watson said in a statement.

Asian marketThe money is being spent on international expansion, starting with the Beyond Limits Asia operations based in Singapore, with offices in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.

“We are also looking into expanding into the Middle East and the Africa region,” Abdallat said. “Both are strong candidates in terms of the energy and utility sector.”The energy industry is where Beyond Limits has put its focus. It is developing its flagship software product to optimize efficiencies at the refinery level, Abdallat said, by allowing refinery managers to maximize output, set financial goals and allow the artificial intelligence system to scale up the knowledge of the refinery manager across the entire enterprise.“We are rolling that product out to some refineries here in the U.S. and soon will announce some product rollouts overseas,” he added.  The energy sector and the general industrial market present Beyond Limits with numerous opportunities right now; Abdallat described “a hunger and thirst” to improve reliability and improve efficiencies.

As an example, Abdallat told of speaking with a chief digital officer from a large multinational industrial company who told him that on average a refinery or plant gets about 45 percent efficiency.

“If you think about that, any improvement in efficiency you are talking about is unlocking a lot of money,” Abdallat added. “We think it (industrial markets) is a space that lends itself to AI and digital transformation.” The type of AI software that Beyond Limits champions is known as explainable AI because it allows you to explain how you reach your conclusions and will give you an audit trail, he continued, adding that those are attractive features for industrial companies.“In health care and fintech, this would be something that is very relevant,” Abdallat said.The team that developed the software while at Cal Tech are now all part of Beyond Limits. The Pasadena school is a shareholder in the company.

The company is in Glendale to maintain close proximity to Cal Tech because of its strong relationships and has an on-going collaborative research agreement with the school, Abdallat said.

“Being in Glendale, you are about 10 miles from Cal Tech, so it was very convenient for us,” he added. “We are proud to be a company in Southern California.

– Mark R. Madler

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