DURHAM – Just five years ago, CloudFactory was working out of a “tiny little phone booth office” in Durham’s American Underground.
This cloud software startup — which depends on a global workforce, along with its proprietary technology, to perform basic tasks for any company — has got new digs. It’s also flush with cash after landing $65 million in growth equity funding from FTV Capital, and it’s scaling big time. (To date, it’s raised more than $78 million.)
The uptick: it’s now even closer to its social mission of putting one million people to work through its platform.
“This is a huge validation,” its CEO and founder Mark Sears told WRAL TechWire.
“We’ve seen a huge demand in the market around the development of artificial intelligence (AI), and getting high-quality training data at scale. There is a huge opportunity for us, and that’s obviously why we raised the capital to go after that.”
The numbers don’t lie.
Sears says the startup has had 20 quarters of consecutive revenue growth, and he believes that’s only the beginning of what’s to come.
“It’s just now that we’re hitting an even bigger inflection point.”
With this latest injection of funds, Sears said he plans to more than double his workforce in the Triangle – from 40 to 100 employees. CloudFactory currently has two offices in the Triangle – one in Durham on Main Street and a second in WeWork’s One Glenwood in Raleigh. Globally, it also sees its headcount jumping from 370 to 500 in the next few years.
The company also employs some 5,000-plus underemployed “cloud workers,” mainly in Nepal and Kenya. That figure is expected to spike into “the tens of thousands” in the next three years.
Funds will also be used to “upskill” those workers through its CloudFactory Academy, as well as build market awareness and develop its technology.
“Fundamentally, that’s our business. We are the world’s data work force,” says Sears. “We want to create an environment and culture where they can perform their best.”
A homegrown success story
Founded in 2010, Sears launched CloudFactory at the technology conference Techcrunch Disrupt in late 2011.
A few years later, the startup found itself becoming one of American Underground’s first tenants when it opened on Main Street.
Sears fondly recalls those early days when he shared a “tiny little room” with about three people. Right next door was the team from ArchiveSocial and its CEO Anil Chawla. (That startup also went on to mega success getting acquired for $53 million earlier this year.)
“We had a thin paper wall,” Sears laughs. “We heard everything that happened on both sides.”
These days, CloudFactory has around 170 clients that subscribe to one of its workstream platforms. It has created some custom workflows for text-to-digital, audio-to-digital and CRM cleanup, giving companies a “turnkey way” to solve these types of problems without building their own solutions.
As Sears describes it, CloudFactory’s key differentiator is its mix of a “high-tech and high-touch” workforce.
“That’s kind of why we’re finding that we’re winning in the market,” he says. “A lot of people are taking a tech-only approach, using more of a crowdsourcing approach to get this training data for AI companies. We are very much boots on the ground, trying to invest and attract the top people.”
Still, Sears is taking his startup’s success all in his stride.
“Obviously it feels really good to kind of celebrate another win for the Triangle and just seeing more and more companies kind of graduate into that scale-up stage.”