Tech vets lead Panda AI, a secretive new spinout from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence

Aaron Goldfeder and Yue Ning, co-founders of Panda AI. (Panda AI Photos)

Veteran tech execs are heading up a stealthy new startup formed inside the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) in Seattle.

Panda AI isn’t yet sharing many details about its technology or products. The company is led by CEO Aaron Goldfeder, who previously co-founded EnergySavvy, an enterprise analytics company acquired by Uplight in 2019. His co-founder and CTO is Yue Ning, a former software engineer at Amazon, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Qualtrics, where he led teams focused on text analytics. Ning also previously founded Seattle-based natural language processing startup Civet AI.

Both Goldfeder and Ning joined AI2 as entrepreneur-in-residences late last year. Here’s how Goldfeder described Panda in an email to GeekWire:

PANDA is a stealth mode B2B startup enabled by very recent breakthroughs in AI. Our goal is to help teams win more, work less, and be happier. PANDA is a next generation solution for problems that many millions of knowledge workers experience daily. Our approach was born out of personal frustration with the current generation toolset available to us while running EnergySavvy. Early adopters love PANDA and we are having a blast building it.

The company’s product advisor is Eric Browne, co-founder of Smartsheet. “There are many founding and aspirational parallels between the companies and Eric is diving in deeply,” Goldfeder said.

For now, Panda has two employees but Goldfeder expects the team to grow soon given interest in its early access program.

AI2 raised $10 million this past January for its incubator that fosters new AI-oriented startups on the frontiers of deep learning, computer vision and natural language processing. The program has already been able to hatch a brood of successful AI-centric spin-outs, starting with Kitt.ai (acquired by Baidu in 2017) and continuing with the likes of Xnor.ai (acquired by Apple in January), LexionBlue Canoe and WellSaid Labs.

The incubator is backed by some of the nation’s top venture capital institutions, such as Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group, Silicon Valley’s Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins, and New York’s Two Sigma Ventures.

Pre-seed funding is paid out according to a checkpoint system that could result in as much as $800,000 in support for a promising startup. AI2 plans to spin out 12 companies from the $10 million fund over the next few years.

The late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen created AI2 in 2014. The organization has more than 100 researchers on its staff who have notched various achievements over the past five years. In addition to the successful spinouts, AI2 has spawned projects ranging from the Semantic Scholar search engine to an AI-enabled guessing game called Iconary.

AI2 is led by CEO Oren Etzioni, a longtime professor at the University of Washington and venture partner at Madrona who previously started and sold Farecast (to Microsoft) and Decide (to eBay). UW President Ana Mari Cauce joined the AI2 board earlier this year.

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