Tunisia’s Instadeep raises $100m in Africa’s first funding mega round of 2022


Artificial intelligence is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. AI, as it is known requires a foundation of specialized hardware and software for writing and training machine learning algorithms. AI is important because it can give enterprises insights into their operations that they may not have been aware of previously and because, in some cases, AI can perform tasks better than humans.

Global investment in AI went up to $77.5b in 2021 from about $68b in 2020 as the world saw more need for digitization due to the pandemic. However, Africa has barely been the recipient of these investments as the region lacks AI talent and cost. Tunisian startup, InstaDeep is turning the tide for the continent with its new funding of $100m in Series B round.

The round was led by Alpha Intelligence Capital and CDIB with contributions from BioNTech (the company behind Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine), Chimera Abu Dhabi, Deutsche Bahn’s DB Digital Ventures, Google, G42 and Synergie.

InstaDeep is a Tunis-based AI startup that provides self-learning decision making systems. The startup harnesses the power of reinforcement learning to create systems that can make decisions on their own, based on their own autonomous training.

This latest funding means the company has now raised $107 million in funding after attracting $7 million in Series A round in 2019. It also represents the first mega round of funding ($100m+) on the continent. 10 African startups attracted mega-rounds of funding in 2021:

African startups that raised $100m in one round in 2021

Speaking on the investment, Karim Beguir, InstaDeep CEO, expressed his team’s desire to scale their operations and make more impact.

We can’t wait to take it to the next level with our investors and partners and try to have a positive impact on the ecosystems in which we operate and all the partners with whom we work.”

Karim Beguir, InstaDeep CEO

AI in health, transport and pest detection

Founded in 2014 by Karim Beguir and Zohra Slim, InstaDeep uses advanced machine learning techniques to bring AI to applications within an enterprise environment. Headquartered in London with offices in Paris, Tunis, Lagos, Dubai and Cape Town, the company has partnered and handles projects with companies in different sectors.

In 2020, InstaDeep formed a multi-year strategic collaboration with BioNTech to launch a joint AI innovation lab to develop novel immunotherapies. Through this collaboration, an early warning system (EWS) for detecting high-risk SARS-CoV-2 variants was created. The EWS was also able to detect Omicron three days before it was classified as a variant of concern by the WHO.

The company says it is currently working on a moonshot product to automate railway scheduling with Deutsche Bahn, the largest rail operator in Europe. The company’s AI is also capable of finding ways to efficiently transport thousands of containers to a railway station, with more than 30,000 kilometres of railway, trying to automate scheduling for 10,000 trains.

InstaDeep also collaborates with Google’s AI research divisions to establish an early detection system for desert locust outbreaks in Africa; it has worked on AI initiatives and has published joint research with DeepMind and Google Research.

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From $2,000 personal funds to $100m investments

Co-founders Beguir and Slim bootstrapped InstaDeep from 2014 to 201 9 when they finally raised the Series A round. The trust of the investors came from the fact that the company was using AI to solve complex problems with significant monetary value.

It is interesting to note that the investors are also companies that have made use of InstaDeep AI operations, a testament to their efficiency.

With them being our partners and customers, they’ve been able to see firsthand what InstaDeep platform and the team can achieve. So we see it as a significant milestone and also sort of a vote of confidence in our capabilities and products that they are investing having worked very closely with us on difficult problems for years.”

InstaDeep CEO

Now with over 170 employees across the world, the enterprise AI company plans to accelerate the launch of disruptive AI products across biotech, logistics, transportation and electronics manufacturing.

There are also expansion plans into the United States, advancement of its computing infrastructure, and talent acquisition. Africa still has a long way to go in the area of AI but companies like InstaDeep are poised to give Africa a say in shaping the future of AI.

“It is possible to create a globally competitive company with strong African roots, but also well integrated into the world working on genuine deep-tech innovation, and doing things that haven’t been done before,” the CEO said.

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