Instill AI, a startup providing tools to gather insights from unstructured data, has raised £2.9m ($3.6m) in a seed round, led by venture capital firm RTP Global.

This round has also been supported by Lunar Ventures; returning investor Hive Ventures; Charles Songhurst, former corporate strategy executive and M&A execute at Microsoft; Demetrios Kellari, head of systems and technology integration at Cavnue; and Mehdi Ghissassi, director of product for Google’s AI/ML Research org. In its pre-seed round, Instill AI was also supported by Cornerstone Ventures.

The funding will help the 2020 startup build on its mission to help organisations extract untapped value from unstructured data, by making AI more accessible to companies of all sizes.

Ping-Lin Chang, CEO and co-founder of Instill AI, said: “Unstructured data can be more analyzable, if AI is more accessible. At Instill AI we are committed to making this happen. We believe that machine learning and AI should be as easy to access as other off-the-shelf cloud services in the software industry today.

“This seed investment helps us speed up the development and strengthen the readiness of the VDP, bringing us one step closer to making the solution to this problem a reality.”

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Gareth Jefferies, partner at RTP Global, commented: “Having first-hand experience of the pain that comes with deploying AI services, Ping-Lin and his co-founder Xiaofei found a way to help companies of all sizes overcome that pain and seamlessly bring AI into the modern data stack to unlock the value of unstructured data.

“We were really impressed by the approach the team at Instill AI are taking and can’t wait to see what they achieve in the next part of their journey.”

Yan Lee, founder and managing partner at Hive Ventures, added: “It has been a pleasure to work with Ping-Lin and Xiaofei to unleash the insights within the 80 per cent enterprise data that is unstructured. We look forward to working closely with new investors RTP Global and Lunar VC to grow Instill AI’s value to the community.”

While deep learning has shown its strength in understanding unstructured data in recent years, data tooling has not yet caught up.

Despite the emergence of new tools, the implementation and deployment of an effective AI solution in an organisation’s data stack is still extremely costly and complex.

Building in-house AI solutions requires huge investment and relies on multifunctional teams. As a result, only large enterprises with deep pockets can successfully build exclusive functionalities and components to process their unstructured data and then, distill business insights or deliver AI applications.

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The other problem is that while emerging MLOps tools and AI services make tapping the value of unstructured data possible, they provide different proprietary frameworks.

To solve this problem, Instill AI has introduced its open-source project – Versatile Data Pipeline (VDP) for unstructured data ETL (Extract, Transform and Load), that seamlessly brings AI into the modern data stack.

The investment will enable Instill AI to launch, later this year, a fully managed cloud service of VDP, to remove the stress of infrastructure maintenance for community members.