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Meet the CEO of SeMI Technologies: Bob van Luijt

Meet the CEO of SeMI Technologies: Bob van Luijt , SeMI Technologies

In 2019, Bob van Luijt (CEO) and Etienne Dilocker (CTO) founded SeMI Technologies with the mission to create an open-source, AI-first infrastructure. “We create AI-first database technology that people can use to scale their machine learning models, and we are democratizing that kind of technology. Our core database, Weaviate, is an open-source vector search engine, and we have seen complete horizontal adoption,” Bob said. “Everybody's using it - from banking and cybersecurity to tech companies. You name it.”

Now, the company has secured a $16 million Series A funding round, which it plans to allocate towards expanding its team in the U.S and Europe and continuing to grow its community of users. As SeMI Technologies scales, Bob wants to ensure that they continue hiring the right people and building a culture that will help the company grow in the right direction. One way that he does this is during the interview process. Inspired by the hiring process for software positions, Bob always assigns applicants a challenge to better understand how they solve problems.

“It is not about people giving the right answers, per se. It is more about seeing how people work in a short amount of time and how they explain what they were working on,” Bob said. Using this method, he is able to better determine if an applicant would be a good fit for the team. But even if a candidate is not right for SeMI Technologies, Bob still wants to be respectful of people’s time and efforts. Therefore, he gives all interviewees an Amazon gift card as a way of thanking them for their interest in the position.

When hiring, culture is something that Bob always keeps top of mind. He believes that a strong culture is a predicate to building a successful business and although SeMI Technologies is currently a lean team of only thirteen employees, he has already hired a dedicated Head of People and Culture. “There is so much that we could do with the people that I now have and the bonds that we are building together. Because I have an amazing team, I feel confident that we can build anything,” Bob said.

Since SeMI Technologies is a remote organization, Bob is a big believer in setting aside time to allow everyone to get to know their colleagues better. One way that he does this is by taking out all of his employees individually for a meal. “I'm aware that as the company keeps growing I can't do this with everyone, but for now, I sit down with everybody, just one on one, and have dinner. That way, you can just have a conversation and it's not only about the company, but also about life, and you start to understand people better.”

Additionally, employees at SeMI often want to work in the vicinity of each other, hang out after hours, or meet up for some group fun as a team and people are free to do this whenever they feel it's needed. Bob frequently empowers his team to organize social events without having to ask for permission. While in many cultures it's common to wait for a reason to celebrate with your team, Bob feels there doesn't need to be a reason to gather and enjoy each other's company. “In general, I want our people to wake up in the morning and be excited to get to work. And the keyword there for me is fun. So it needs to be fun to go to work and that is possible through culture and also through technology because it's exciting to work on.”

Finally, he is also a believer in not being bound to the traditional 9-to-5 work schedule but instead finding ways to integrate work and life in a way that feels balanced for each individual. Personally, when Bob is not focused on leading an organization he enjoys going to concerts, learning about modern art and language philosophy, and lifting weights at the gym.

Looking ahead, Bob is eager for all that is to come for SeMI Technologies and the strong community that they are cultivating. “One of the things that we really believe and are showing basic attraction for is that this type of technology is just a new way of organizing and working with data. In the coming year, we will be proving that. So that means increasing the community and having more integrations with partners and large tech companies where we show the added value of what SeMI brings to the table.”

More announcements from SeMI Technologies

Funding announcement

SeMI Technologies' $16M Series A Round Highlights a New Wave of AI-first Database Tech

AMSTERDAM, Feb. 22, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- SeMI Technologies, developer of the open-source Weaviate vector-search database, has closed a $16 million Series A financing co-led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and Cortical Ventures. This investment follows a previously unannounced $1.6 million seed financing led by Zetta Venture Partners with ING Ventures also participating, in August 2020. The new infusion of capital acknowledges the value of SeMI Technologies' leading position in vector databases, a new type of database opening up a new era of AI-first database technologies. Previous databases just stored raw data; Weaviate stores data that is processed by machine learning models, allowing users to better index and search through their data. The investment will allow SeMI to grow its team, user community, and roster of partners; increase the number of use cases; and to create and fine-tune its ML models and modules. SeMI Technologies was originally spun out of ING Labs. The founders, CEO Bob Van Luijt, CTO Etienne Dilocker, and COO Micha Verhagen set out to democratize search capabilities that have, until now, been closely guarded by a handful of huge tech companies. The Weaviate vector search database is open source and SeMI gives customers the option of running it on their infrastructure (allowing them to maintain control of their data, safely behind their own firewalls) or as a managed SaaS offering with one-click access. "We represent a third wave in database technology," says van Luijt."Oracle's SQL dominance was followed by open-source NoSQL databases pioneered by companies like MongoDB. Weaviate gives any enterprise the advantage of databases built with ML and deep learning at their core. The first use cases have been natural-language ones but we are also exploring images, videos, audio, and even esoteric cases such as graph or gene embeddings." SeMI Technologies offers products and services around its Weaviate open-source solution. These include managed services, a service license agreement, and support. Weaviate has already been downloaded over 700k times (a number growing about 30% per month!) Hundreds of users have applied Weaviate in more than 100 different use cases in technology, finance, media, cybersecurity, health care, and many other industries. "We've been closely watching ML and AI advancements and waiting for the right team and product to reinvent how we work with data," said Tony Florence, Managing General Partner, Technology at NEA. "The Weaviate Vector Database enables users to interact with unstructured data as vectors, across text, audio, and images, which unlocks incredibly powerful use cases. We're thrilled to partner with Bob and the SeMi Technologies team to democratize access to new data applications— from neural semantic search to vector-based recommender systems and more." "This investment will allow us to focus on making Weaviate the de facto standard in open-source vector search," says SeMI's van Luijt. "As a bonus, both NEA and Cortical bring valuable knowledge and experience from OSS "deep tech" companies that will catalyze our growth and product development." "Over the next decade, AI-driven applications will transform every industry and every part of our lives, creating trillions of dollars of market value," said Igor Taber, General Partner at Cortical Ventures. "Weaviate has the potential to be a core database technology powering these applications. We are excited to work with Bob and the entire SeMI team to build the category-defining company." With pandemic restrictions finally easing, van Luijt and the SeMI team are happy to have more opportunities to meet with and grow the open source community around the Weaviate project. To learn more visit: www.semi.technology About SeMI Technologies SeMI Technologies builds core software infrastructure for AI-first applications. The Weaviate vector-search engine is their open-source flagship. SeMI was founded in 2019 by Bob van Luijt, Micha Verhagen, and Etienne Dilocker. It is headquartered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. www.semi.technology – www.weaviate.io About NEA New Enterprise Associates, Inc. (NEA) is a global venture capital firm focused on helping entrepreneurs build transformational businesses across multiple stages, sectors and geographies. With nearly $24 billion in cumulative committed capital since the firm's founding in 1977, NEA invests in technology and healthcare companies at all stages in a company's lifecycle, from seed stage through IPO. The firm's track record of investing includes more than 260 portfolio company IPOs and more than 430 mergers and acquisitions. www.nea.com About Cortical Ventures Cortical Ventures is a venture capital firm focused on helping entrepreneurs building the next generation AI Companies. The firm was started by DataRobot founder Jeremy Achin and Igor Taber, who previously led Corporate Development at DataRobot and was an early investor in the company while he was at Intel Capital. Cortical Ventures was started to invent, incubate and invest in the companies leading the AI revolution. The firm is backed by leading VC firms and partners, AI luminaries and top founders and operators in the industry. www.cortical.vc View original content: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/semi-technologies-16m-series-a-round-highlights-a-new-wave-of-ai-first-database-tech-301486766.html

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