Tech visionaries have long predicted that artificial intelligence, or AI, will destroy large swaths of human jobs.

But Crystal Rose, chief operating officer of Venice-based startup Sensay, said there are some areas where AI software can work alongside humans. Her company received $4.5 million in seed funding last week to propel that vision forward in a round led by Norwest Venture Partners with participation from Sweet Capital, NHN, Draper Associates, and downtown’s Greycroft Partners as well as some previous investors to bring the total the company has raised to $6 million.

Sensay uses an artificially intelligent chat bot to connect users on its platform with questions to other users who might have answers. Questions posed vary from where to find the best slice of pizza to queries about relationship problems. The vast majority of Sensay’s more than 1 million registered users are active monthly, said Rose, who co-founded the firm last year with Chief Executive Ariel Jalali.

“We are seeking to index the world’s humans by their knowledge and experience,” said Rose. “Knowledge is the one product that we all have that will not able to be – at least in the short term – taken over by AI.”

The company will use the funding to hire a data scientist and community managers as well as to move out of accelerator Amplify.LA and into a new office.

Rubicon Readjustment

Digital advertising marketplace Rubicon Project’s stock fell 33 percent to close at $9.50 a share on Aug. 3 after the company lowered its revenue guidance for the year and acknowledged being a step behind on the emergent industry trend of “header bidding.”

While the Playa Vista company’s second-quarter revenue grew 33 percent year over year to $70.5 million, its 2016 revenue guidance fell from $355 million to $305 million. The drop can be partly attributed to an unexpected 2 percent dip in the number of desktop ad-space bids flowing through its exchanges.

Header bidding is a process through which advertising exchanges compete all at once to buy up ad space on a website. Previously, digital ad space was shopped around to advertising exchanges one at a time until inventory was sold. Web publishers employ header bidding because the pressurized competition among ad exchanges drives up advertising rates.

Rubicon implemented a header-bidding feature in October, but the firm’s leadership was caught off guard by how rapidly the process was adopted. The company had planned to improve its mobile and video ad technologies first, said Dallas Lawrence, the company’s chief communications officer, because those avenues are thought to be a more promising revenue stream.

“We were focused on the future growth drivers of mobile and video and orders, while other smaller players focused on taking share away from Rubicon Project and Google in legacy desktop advertising,” he said. “In the long term, our strategy is absolutely the right one for the industry. As the vast majority of growth migrates to mobile and video in 2017 and beyond, we will be well positioned for the future.”

Snapchat Stories

Following Snapchat’s lead, Instagram has launched its own “Stories” feature, a near-perfect copy of Snapchat’s feature of the same name, which is a feed of disappearing content available for 24 hours from the time of posting. The feature is designed to encourage users to post more frequently and include more candid content about their lives.

The Venice app maker is also working on a new type of digital advertisement that would allow people to use their smartphone cameras to unlock special sponsored content within the app, The Information reported last week. The ad format is in development and is expected to roll out this fall. However, it’s also possible the product will be delayed or shelved entirely.

Snapchat also signed a multiyear deal with the National Football League that would give the NFL its own league-branded Discover and Live Stories channels for every game. Teams would also receive custom geofilters allowing Snapchat users to submit their snaps to the channels.


E-tailer Honest Co. of Playa Vista, which sells eco-friendly household products, has hired Laurence Dryer as its vice president of product development and innovation. She is responsible for the company’s product development, research and development, packaging development, and clinical operations. … Demand Media of Santa Monica appointed Matt Gehring vice president of marketing.

Staff reporter Garrett Reim can be reached at or (323) 549-5225, ext. 232.

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