French AI startup Pathway, led by a Polish-French female duo, has announced it's raised a $4.5m pre-seed round to develop its product — a tool that provides companieswith real-time analysis of fast-moving data from multiple sources.
The round was led by Polish VCs Inovo and Market One Capital, together with angel investors including Roger Crook, the former global CEO of German delivery giant DHL.
After a record 2021, funding for European AI startups this year has been restrained by the economic downturn. But the deeptech sector as a whole is still performing well — the industry has raised $16.8bn so far in 2022, in comparison to $22.6bn last year, according to Dealroom.
France and Poland also both stand out on the European deeptech map.
France is one of the leading supporters of the deeptech sector in Europe, as well as the top source of top-tier AI researchers — the country’s deeptech startups have raised $2.2bn so far this year, already topping last year's total. The sector is also rapidly growing in Poland, with $174m raised in 2022 to date, according to Dealroom. That’s already more than double the total raised in 2021.
What does Pathway do?
Pathway was founded in 2020 by Zuzanna Stamirowska, a Polish researcher who did her PhD in France on forecasting maritime trade.
During her research Stamirowska noticed that it wasn’t possible to digitise supply chain analysis because it was impossible to apply machine learning on streams of data entering warehouses.
“I realised that there was this mismatch between what the data looks like with what machine learning was able to propose, and how companies were just struggling to deploy machine learning projects or data projects in their warehouses. There was an entire layer of software infrastructure that was missing,” she says. “That was really slowing down digitalisation for those big players. We had clients who told us that sometimes you may still use a telescope to check if you have some empty containers in the yard.”
She noticed that various industries weren't adopting AI into their businesses because of the same barrier — data interpretation — and that there was no software infrastructure that would help businesses instantly perform automated reasoning on top of data streams. If they can’t interpret data in real time, companies lose the ability to analyse and predict on the spot.
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This is the problem Pathway is addressing. Its product allows developers to create a Python-based programming framework that transforms table-like data in real time. This makes real-time machine learning possible and reduces latency by up to 900x, it claims, allowing business managers to react in seconds rather than hours. This could, for example, help supply chain businesses analyse their delivery processes, but also banks to detect anti-fraud behaviour; marketers to check real-time sentiment on social media; or product managers to track customer behaviour patterns.
Pathway sells its software to companies — businesses like the logistics division of German rail DB Schenker and the French postal operator La Poste have already deployed the product — but the solution framework is also open and free for developers.
This is a man’s world
Stamirowska runs Pathway with her cofounder, Claire Nouet, the COO — who is also her former student. This is an uncommon management composition in the deeptech sector in Europe, which is heavily dominated by men — for example, the CEOs of every European deeptech unicorn is male.
Stamirowska says it’s never been an issue for her, as she’s always been operating in a masculine environment. But it’s also important for her to set a good example.
While her male counterparts complain that they’re unable to hire female engineers, she says she's never had such a problem. “I have female engineers, and I didn't have to search for them. They just apply,” she says. “For me, it's a very good data point which tells me ‘okay, role models are important’. I do see a lot of value and importance in setting up those role models. It's important for our daughters and it will be important for the women who will be developing their careers in the future.”
“Definitely, there are obstacles,” she adds. “Actually, there's a lot of determination that's necessary, already for everybody to build a startup, but if you're a woman I think at every step of the career, there's maybe a little bit more that you have to put in.”