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Scale AI: How to Scale a Company on Every AI Trend

A remarkable journey from appointment apps to data labeling powerhouse

Welcome to our new series! AI Infrastructure Unicorns. These companies provide the hardware, software, and services necessary for Generative AI startups but even if GenAI will someday become extinct, these infrastructure builders won’t stay without the job as they serve a much bigger industry of AI/ML models in general.


Next up on our list of AI infrastructure unicorns is Scale AI. Scale AI boasts one of the largest valuations in the highly competitive data labeling market. Despite facing early competition from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and increasing challenges thereafter, it has managed to sustain itself, and this year marks its 8th anniversary! With its extensive history, Scale has undergone five funding rounds, the most recent in 2021, valuing it at $7.3 billion, and two secondary market rounds, with the most recent in September 2023. Just this week, The Information shared that 'CEO Alexandr Wang last year privately said he wanted to raise funding at a valuation of as much as $14 billion.' Roughly twice as much as the latest valuation!

Scale AI is also known for playing on all fields, starting from self-driving cars and ending with the military complex. Wang’s secret has to be his especially keen attunement with trends. He pivoted and offered new products just slightly before most of his competitors. Let’s take a closer look at Scale AI’s impressive journey of growth and expansion.

  1. Scale AI's beginnings: Starting a company without a clear vision

  2. Scale AI’s how-to succeed

  3. Main pivots + path to Generative AI

  4. Competition

  5. Products and acquisitions

  6. The AI War and How to Win It – scratching the military potential

  7. Scale AI in the present

  8. Scale AI’s mission throughout the years

  9. Funding rounds

  10. Conclusion

Scale AI's beginnings: Starting a company without a clear vision

Alexandr (Alex) Wang and Lucy Guo, the dynamic duo behind what is now known as Scale AI, first crossed paths at Quora, a platform dedicated to the exchange of knowledge through questions and answers. Alex, a mere 18 years old, had already ascended to the role of tech lead at Quora where Lucy, at 21, worked as a product designer with a software development background.

It was 2015 when they envisioned their first startup, a mobile app that would help people find and book doctors’ appointments. “But we couldn’t focus on product dev because we were just calling doctors all day,” recalls Lucy.

App to book doctor's appointments? One of their roommates jokingly suggests, "Hah! You should create an API for humans."

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