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Figure Eight Inc.

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Figure Eight Inc.
IndustryMachine learning and artificial intelligence
FoundedDecember 2007 (2007-12)
FounderLukas Biewald
Chris Van Pelt
United States
Number of employees

Figure Eight (formerly known as Dolores Labs, CrowdFlower) was a human-in-the-loop machine learning and artificial intelligence company based in San Francisco.

Figure Eight technology uses human intelligence to do simple tasks such as transcribing text or annotating images to train machine learning algorithms.[1] Figure Eight's software automates tasks for machine learning algorithms, which can be used to improve catalog search results, approve photos or support customers and the technology can be used in the development of self-driving cars, intelligent personal assistants and other technology that uses machine learning.[2]

The company was acquired by Appen in March 2019 for $300 million.[3]



Originally called Dolores Labs, the company was founded in 2007 by Lukas Biewald and Chris Van Pelt.[4] They found a need for temporary workers doing simple tasks that could not be automated.[5] After experimenting with pictures and questions related to them on Amazon's Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourcing internet marketplace, they encouraged others to participate in their experimentation through the site Facestat. They collected 20 million assessments of people's faces within three months and began to add queries for companies needing data such as event listing site Zvents and O'Reilly Media.[6]

Dolores Labs, initially in a loft space in the Mission District briefly moved to an office on Valencia Street which it outgrew in nine months.[7] They felt the name Dolores Labs was too research-oriented and sounded like experimentation, so the company was renamed CrowdFlower. In 2009, CrowdFlower held an official launch at the TechCrunch50 conference. A sleek logo replaced its previous mint-eating alligator. The company moved to its third office in the Mission in early 2010.[8] The name Dolores Labs was adopted by Dan Scholnick of Trinity Ventures who turned the name and previous office space into a co-working and startup incubator space.[7]

Disaster relief[edit]

In 2009, the company provided work for refugees in Kenya who completed microtasks; iPhone users donated their time by checking for accuracy through the app Give Work.[9] After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, CrowdFlower again worked with Samasource to help Haitians find work through the application GiveWork.[10][11]

Funding and expansion[edit]

Founders Lukas Biewald and Chris Van Pelt were included on Inc.'s 30 Under 30 list in 2010.[12]

In 2011, CrowdFlower raised a Series B funding round that totaled $9.3 million and included investor Harmony Venture Partners. The company's Series C funding, which closed in September 2014, totaled $12.5 million.[13] In 2014, CrowdFlower was named Best in Show at FinovateFall.[14][15]

The company established a scientific advisory board in 2016, which made up of entrepreneur Barney Pell, founder and CEO of Kaggle Anthony Goldbloom, and staff research engineer at Google, Pete Warden.[16] That same year, it raised a $10 million Series D funding round led by Microsoft Ventures, Canvas Ventures and Trinity Ventures.[17] The following year, CrowdFlower raised $20 million in a venture capital round led by Industry Ventures and included Salesforce Ventures, Canvas Ventures, Microsoft Ventures, and Trinity Ventures.[18] The company announced its international expansion with an office in Israel in October 2016.[19]

CrowdFlower was named to the 2017 list of Cool Vendors released by Gartner.[20] That same year, it received AWS Machine Learning Competency status from Amazon Web Services.[21] In 2018, CrowdFlower was included on the Forbes list of 100 Companies Leading the Way in A.I.[22]

Sale and dissolution[edit]

The company raised $58 million in venture capital and was acquired by Appen in March 2019 for $300 million.[3] In 2020, Appen announced that it had " successfully transitioned all former Figure Eight assets."[23]


In June 2012, the company released version 2.0 of its Real Time Foto Moderator which checks photographs for adult or inappropriate content. The new version included two different "rule sets" to determine appropriate photos including a stricter rule set and one that is more flexible. The update also added an option for moderators to specify why a photo is rejected.[24] That same year, Parse partnered with CrowdFlower to add photo moderation to its backend services designed for mobile app development.[25]

In November 2014, CrowdFlower announced that it was releasing support for eight new languages crowds to its platform, making twelve available language crowds at the time.[26]

In 2015, CrowdFlower AI launched at the Rich Data Summit. The AI platform combines machine learning and human-labeled training data to create data sets used for predictive models.[27]

In 2015, CrowdFlower announced the Data For Everyone initiative, which included a collection of data sets available to researchers and entrepreneurs.[28]

Partners and collaboration[edit]

Microsoft partnered with CrowdFlower in October 2016 to create a "human-in-the-loop" platform using Microsoft Azure Machine Learning.[29] In May 2017, CrowdFlower released an enhancement for its Computer Vision software, announced during the Train AI conference, designed to simplify and speed up the process of annotating images.[30]

Figure Eight held TrainAI, a conference held in San Francisco. In 2017, the company launched AI for Everyone at the TrainAI conference.[31] AI For Everyone is a contest run by Figure Eight for non-profit ventures and scientific research that aims to improve society by awarding $1 million in prize money that will go toward projects using AI.[32] Six winners have been announced as of February 2018 to projects ranging from computer vision for cancer research to natural language processing for hate speech.[33]

The company was a Machine Learning Competency Partner in Amazon's AWS Machine Learning Partner Solutions program.[clarification needed][34] Figure Eight works with companies such as Autodesk, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Cisco Systems, GitHub, Mozilla, VMware,[2] eBay, Etsy, Toyota and American Express.[35]


  1. ^ Ha, Anthony (June 7, 2016). "CrowdFlower raises $10M to combine artificial intelligence with crowdsourced labor". Tech Crunch. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Bort, Julie (October 15, 2017). "Founder of $111 million startup CrowdFlower: I'm forever grateful to Travis Kalanick". Business Insider. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Bridgwater, Adrian (March 7, 2016). "Machine Learning Needs A Human-In-The-Loop". Forbes. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  4. ^ "CrowdFlower CO-Founder Lukas Biewald Becomes CEO (Again)". 22 March 2012.
  5. ^ Louis E. Boone, David L. Kurtz (January 1, 2012). Contemporary Marketing, 2013 Update. Cengage Learning. ISBN 9781133710455.
  6. ^ Victoria Barret (13 March 2009). "Dolores Labs' Frivolous Inspiration". Forbes.
  7. ^ a b "Recreating a Culture of Innovation".
  8. ^ "Mercury News interview: Lukas Biewald, co-founder/CEO, CrowdFlower". 20 April 2012.
  9. ^ Oshiro, Dana (2009-10-13). "Samasource / CrowdFlower iPhone App Helps Refugees Fight Poverty". Readwriteweb.com. Archived from the original on 2012-01-01. Retrieved 2012-01-31.
  10. ^ "Crowdsourcing the Haiti Relief | The CrowdFlower Blog". Blog.crowdflower.com. 2010-01-29. Retrieved 2012-01-31.
  11. ^ "Samasource and CrowdFlower in Haiti: Rebuilding After a Crisis". Huffington Post. 2010-03-19. Retrieved 2018-06-06.
  12. ^ "Lukas Biewald and Chris Van Pelt, Founders of Crowdflower".
  13. ^ Derrick Harris. "CrowdFlower raises $12.5M to deliver better data for better models". gigaom.com.
  14. ^ "How All 7 of This Year's FinovateFall Best of Show Winners Hit the Mark With Innovation and Utility".
  15. ^ "CrowdFlower Raises $20 Million to Bloom AI Adoption". 13 June 2017.
  16. ^ Anthony Ha (6 November 2016). "CrowdFlower announces a scientific advisory board as it works to combine AI and crowdsourcing". TechCrunch.
  17. ^ Todd Bishop (6 June 2016). "Microsoft Ventures invests in Comfy smart building app and CrowdFlower AI tech". GeekWire.
  18. ^ Kyt Dotson (12 June 2017). "AI-augmented crowdsourcing company CrowdFlower raises $20M for enterprise push". Silicon Angle.
  19. ^ "CrowdFlower expands into Israel". PR Newswire. 25 October 2016.
  20. ^ "And the 2017 Cool Vendors Are". June 2017.
  21. ^ Joseph Spisak (28 November 2017). "Introducing the Inaugural AWS Machine Learning Competency Partners". AWS.
  22. ^ Nicolas Rapp (28 January 2018). "These 100 Companies Are Leading the Way in A.I." Fortune.
  23. ^ "Appen Offers Fully Integrated Figure Eight Solution". Appen. 16 April 2020. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  24. ^ "CrowdFlower's Photo Moderation Tool Gets A Little More Flexible". 21 June 2012.
  25. ^ "Parse Adds Crowdflower's Photo Moderation To Its Mobile Backend Services". 18 December 2012.
  26. ^ "CrowdFlower's Data Enrichment Platform Now Supports Eight New Languages".
  27. ^ "CrowdFlower raises $10 million from Microsoft and others to bring A.I. to data science". Venturebeat. 7 June 2016.
  28. ^ "CrowdFlower Launches Open Data Project Covering Everything From Climate Change To #ThatDress". 3 March 2015.
  29. ^ "CrowdFlower partnership with Microsoft brings power of 'human-in-the-loop' to machine learning".
  30. ^ "CrowdFlower Announces Next Generation Computer Vision Solution".
  31. ^ "How artificial intelligence might help achieve the SDGs".
  32. ^ "Top 5 AI Challenges For Startups & Programmers To Participate In 2018". 7 February 2018.
  33. ^ "CrowdFlower "AI for Everyone" Challenge Announces Winners and Opens Applications for Next Round". 30 January 2018.
  34. ^ Lardinois, Frederic (November 28, 2017). "AWS launches new partner programs for networking and machine learning specialists". Tech Crunch. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  35. ^ Zakrzewski, Cat (June 12, 2017). "CrowdFlower Combines Crowdsourcing and Machine Intelligence". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 13, 2018.