Zetta Venture Partners

Zetta Bytes: Privacy Preserving Machine Learning

We’re elated to welcome Aptology to the Zetta family. Aptology is a talent management platform that uses behavioral traits based in organizational psychology to help sales organizations hire, develop and retain for success. Read More

Ash recently spoke with Capital Allocators about investing in AI. Episode highlights include details on our research process, how to calculate an investment fund size, the state of AI tech today, how Zetta utilizes data driven sourcing and how we help companies with go to market strategies. Listen


Dear All,

We’re diving into ten key areas for innovation as a part of a monthly series on AI-enabled applications and the technological breakthroughs needed to support them. Thus far, we’ve written about six areas of innovation and today, we’re offering a seventh: privacy preserving machine learning.

In the age of nearly constant data breaches, data privacy has become a defining issue for tech regulators, leading to sweeping laws like GDPR in Europe and San Francisco’s recent decision to ban facial recognition software. This poses a particular challenge for machine learning where user data is collected and pooled in the cloud in order to train intelligent systems. However, a new class of privacy-preserving machine learning architectures such as ‘Federated Learning’ could hold the key to maintaining user privacy while allowing models to train on real world data.

In federated learning, a model is downloaded to an edge device — like a mobile phone — where it runs locally and sends a periodic summary of its learnings as an encrypted message to the cloud. There, thousands of individual summaries are averaged together to update the model without user data ever leaving the device. Originally developed at Google in 2017 to power keyboard recommendations, federated learning since inspired a range of new techniques and applications.

In particular, privacy-preserving ML is catching on in healthcare where it’s being used to read EEGs, develop drugs and predict cardiac arrest through smart speakers at home. Other groups, concerned with device-level vulnerabilities, are combining federated learning with encrypted hardware and are working with major healthcare systems like Stanford.

It’s still early days for the technology — with plenty of performance limitations and security vulnerabilities to work out — but we expect to see many more applications of privacy-preserving machine learning in the coming decade.

Warmest regards, Mark, Jocelyn, Ash, Dylan, James and Todd


READING ABOUT AI — AI Must Make Money

Alex Dalyac, Co-founder and CEO of Tractable, argues the importance of applying AI to real, commercial ends to ensure its sustainability. He believes chasing investments in the most recent academic successes, often without foreseeable monetization plans, could lead to an ‘AI Winter’. How to stop the looming “AI winter”

Nathan Benaich explores how creating a full-stack ML company will set you ahead of those building single ML tool companies. Though more operationally complex he points to five key areas where being a full-stack company creates an advantage: high-risk experimentation, overcoming adoption inertia, market maturity, defensibility and the value attribution problem. Machine learning: go full stack or go home. See also our article from 2016 on vertically integrated machine learning companies.

Verusen Founder and CEO, Paul Noble, breaks down how AI-enabled platforms can be used to cleanse data in real-time, removing the burden and risks of making business decisions with dirty data in The Death of the Data Cleanse.


HIGHLIGHTS — Focal Systems Expands Partnership

Wakefern Food Corp. is expanding their partnership with Focal Systems, integrating Focal in 50 stores. “Focal Systems’ out-of-stock detection through computer vision and artificial intelligence enabled us to automatically identify shelf gaps,” said Cheryl Williams, CIO of Wakefern.

Alex MacCaw, Co-founder and CEO of Clearbit, sits down with Harry Stebbings for his podcast Twenty Minute VC. They discuss a variety of management topics including delivering and absorbing feedback, and how to lead with vulnerability.


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