Kenyan AI startup UTU raises further seed funding

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Kenyan AI startup UTU has added Tokyo-based incubator and venture capital firm DEEPCORE to its list of seed investors as it bids to bring real-world trust to online platforms and marketplaces.

UTU, which is the company behind socially-powered taxi and transport app Maramoja, has developed an algorithm optimised for trust that utilises proprietary innovations in the fields of AI and distributed ledger technology.

The startup has been raising seed funding this year, and has now added AI-focused incubator DEEPCORE to its list of investors. The startup raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Hong Kong-based accelerator Zeroth in April, and also received US$250,000 from the Bulgaria-based æternity Ventures in July after taking part in its Starfleet Incubator for blockchain startups.

DEEPCORE is a wholly-owned subsidiary of global technology player SoftBank Group, and aims to accelerate the adoption of deep learning in society and foster entrepreneurs by creating a new ecosystem that promotes collaborative projects and develops startups.

“We’re delighted to embark on UTU’s journey for expansion of the boundaries of AI and deployment of the transformational technologies in Africa. UTU is tackling issues of online trust, obviously one of the most serious socio-economic issues. We expect UTU’s outstanding and passionate team to realise their envisioned goal, a more trusted internet,” said Katsumasa Niki, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of DEEPCORE.

UTU CEO Jason Eisen said his team was “humbled” that DEEPCORE, which he said was at the forefront of machine intelligence globally, shared UTU’s vision of applying a more human model of trust online.

“We’ve already benefited tremendously from DEEPCORE’s wisdom and we’re excited to deepen this partnership over the coming years,” he said.

UTU is currently developing pilot projects with clients across Africa, spanning multiple sharing economy sectors.

“The response to UTU’s trust infrastructure services has been incredible. We’ve not marketed at all but every day a new platform approaches us with challenges relating to building trust on their marketplace. We’ve had to start putting projects onto a waitlist – not the worst problem to have,” said Eisen.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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