The artificial intelligence (AI) protection startup TrojAI Inc. has secured $3 million in seed funding.
Seattle’s Flying Fish Ventures and the Atlantic Canada venture capital fund Build Ventures led the round with participation from Techstars, Concrete Ventures, and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. The round closed on December 21, 2021.
“As more companies speed to get AI solutions to market, few are prepared for, or even aware of the very real security threats.”
– Frank Chang, Flying Fish
TrojAI develops solutions to protect AI platforms from adversarial attacks on training data and AI models, such as poisoning or embedded Trojan and evasion attacks.
The new funds will go toward increasing protection against security threats to AI platforms, and hiring new staff. TrojAI CEO James Stewart told BetaKit that the company has already added four people to its team of eight, and over the next six months plans to bring on two or three more new staff.
Among the potential threats the company identifies are embedded Trojan attacks on self-automated cars that could confuse their systems and endanger public safety; and new attacks on robotics as AI is added to the Internet of Things solutions.
“As more companies speed to get AI solutions to market, few are prepared for, or even aware of the very real security threats that can be introduced with malicious data injected into training sets,” said Frank Chang, managing partner at Flying Fish. “TrojAI is the only company we’ve seen that has the team and technology to identify and remove it.”
The startup said that it is moving to expand its security protections for AI even while governments push for more stringent regulations around the responsible use of AI.
The federal Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has been looking at policies around AI, and expressed its concerns over its use: “We are paying specific attention to AI systems given their rapid adoption for processing and analysing large amounts of personal information. Their use for making predictions and decisions affecting individuals may introduce privacy risks as well as unlawful bias and discrimination.”
The European Union is more advanced in its legislation and has introduced a legal framework for AI as well as the algorithmic accountability act that can provide fines up to six percent of a company’s revenues if it’s found that a firm wasn’t rigorous with its use of AI.
This is Stewart’s second AI startup. His first venture, EhEye, a video threat recognition software company, was acquired by Patriot One Technologies for $3.6 million in stock. Stewart served as the senior vice president of video analytics at Patriot One.
It was during this time that Stewart increasingly became aware of the vulnerabilities of AI systems to adversarial attacks. These attacks are sector agnostic impacting autonomous transport, robotics, FinTech, medtech and defence applications, according to Stewart.
TrojAI previously closed a $750,000 CAD equity funding round in early 2021. Techstars AI was first to commit to the funding, with follow-on by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, Concrete Ventures, and multiple angel investors.
Over the past year, TrojAI has participated in the Techstars Montréal AI accelerator, the Rogers Cyber Catalyst program out of Ryerson University, the Global Affairs Canadian Technology Accelerator (CTA) for Cybersecurity, and is currently working with Venture Lab and Creative Destruction Labs.