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Unitary raises $8M: our story

Read the story behind Unitary's journey from startup to raising $8M in funding. Learn about our co-founders, company culture, and insights from our CEO and investors.

Ippolita Magrone

Table of contents

VTech toy computer from the 90s
Unitary's CTO, James Thewlis', first computer.

Unitary raises $8M: our story  

Today, we are thrilled to announce that Unitary raises $8 million in funding led by Ian Hogarth at Plural, and strategic angels, including Matt Robinson (founder of GoCardless), Chris Mairs (former CTO of Metaswitch Networks) and marketing leader Carolyn Everson. The funding will play a key role in supporting our team’s growth, the further development of our AI technology, the acceleration of partnerships and our open-source work that keeps users safe online.

Unitary’s story

It seems surreal to think that just a few years back, Unitary’s co-founders, Sasha and James, first met at Entrepreneur First. Both coming from fascinating backgrounds, they were instantly united by a drive to solve important societal challenges. During her PhD at Cambridge, Sasha was using physics and mathematics to solve the mysteries of the universe alongside Stephen Hawking, and spent a year as a visiting fellow at Harvard. In parallel, James experienced the complexities of content moderation first hand as a community moderator on Reddit, and with experience working at Facebook. During his PhD at the University of Oxford, he developed methods for visual understanding with less manual annotation.

Although academia can be very rewarding in terms of intellectual growth, both Sasha and James felt the need to apply what they had learnt to a tangible problem and deliver real world impact. Ultimately, this is what led them to tackle the very complicated issue of building AI technology capable of moderating harmful content online.

Why is content moderation a complicated issue?

For social media companies, moderating content is non-negotiable. Up until now, most companies have resorted to human moderators or simplistic keyword detection methods. Both methods are flawed and often fail to do justice to the context within which an online post exists. To actually consider context it is first essential to understand what is inside a content. Therefore, in 2019, Sasha and James embarked on a mission. Namely, to build AI technology that, through multimodal algorithms, could understand online visual content so as to enable a context-aware moderation decision.

Starting from a team of two, Unitary’s top priority was to build a killer engineering team, one that could live up to this mission. Founded just before the outbreak of COVID-19, Unitary established itself as a remote-first company, hiring some of the best Computer Vision, Machine Learning, Software and Platform Engineers around the globe. This was a necessary first step to ensure that Unitary could be a trusted tech partner for platforms and brands alike. Following the establishment of a strong engineering backbone, Unitary’s team grew to include Commercial, Operations, People & Culture, Product and Marketing representatives.

A group picture of Unitary's team holding  banner in a scenic spot in Madeira, Portugal.
Unitary Team offsite in Madeira, Portugal (2022).

This funding will support Unitary’s further establishment of a US presence and nurture the development of custom content classification solutions in partnership with social networks and ad tech companies. Additionally, the funding will also play a key role in further refining Unitary’s open-source tool, Detoxify, which has already been downloaded over 7 million times.

“At Unitary, we’re committed to making the internet a safer place for everyone and with the support of investors like Plural, who understand the complexity of developing and scaling deep tech, we can see a clear route to making an impact on this snowballing problem that affects us all.”

Sasha Haco, co-founder and CEO at Unitary

Sasha and James have chosen to tackle one of modern society’s hardest problems and we are in awe of their intellect and determination. Plural was founded to help startups like this apply cutting-edge machine learning to a critical global challenge. As more and more cameras are connected to the internet, we will need ever more intelligent tools to organise that content and make it harder for bad actors to operate.”

Ian Hogarth, founding partner at Plural and co-author of The State of AI

“From my time working at Meta, I understand deeply the problem that Sasha and James are trying to solve at Unitary. We will all benefit from their mission to make the internet a safer, more enjoyable place to be and I look forward to working closely with the team to make this a reality.”

Carolyn Everson, angel investor and Unitary board member

To read more about our company culture, check out our approach to remote working.