How a French Startup Is Re-making Privacy-first Ai Tech

November 11, 2016 - 2 minutes read

When techies think of artificial intelligence, they usually think of big venture capital projects in the US and app developers in London.

But there’s another player on the AI field, and it’s actually bigger than you might think. There are about 180 AI startups in France, mostly in Paris, and a thriving scene that’s unfortunately known more for feeding top recruits to the Googles and Apples of the world rather than for their own local startups.

Snips, a Parisian startup staffed by some of the country’s top math talents, flies in the face of that reputation. Having just closed a $6.5 million funding round, venture capitalists agree. For Snips, the secret to success in a big-player’s game is by going privacy-first. While Google and virtually all other AI companies vacuum up data to the cloud and make it as transparent and re-sellable as possible, Snip takes the opposite approach. Their entire AI system exists in-app on a user’s phone, performing all analysis and collection locally — no cloud required.

This is a huge benefit for users concerned about privacy, as the current ecosystem for mobile app users generally forces a choice between privacy and convenience. Either you hand over your keys in exchange for the Google suite, or you lock everything up, with all the benefits of AI apps on the outside.

While 90 percent of exits currently happen in the US AI market, London and France could quickly become big players if they’re able to continue exploiting counter-intuitive oversights like the privacy issue. The industry is still young, with plenty of room for disruptive app developers to make a splash — regardless of where they hang their hats.

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