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Facebook quietly acquired another UK AI startup and almost no one noticed

Steve O'Hear

Over the last few years, Facebook has been busy building out AI capabilities in areas like computer vision, natural language processing (NLP) and ‘deep learning,’ in part by acquiring promising startups in the space.

Understandably, this has seen the U.S. social networking giant look to the U.K. for AI talent, including an acqui-hire of NLP startup Bloosbury AI in 2018, and most recently, acquiring Scape Technologies, a British company using computer vision to offer more accurate location positioning for augmented reality.

Now TechCrunch has learned that a third U.K. acquisition quietly took place this December, seeing Facebook acquire Deeptide Ltd., the company behind Atlas ML, which is also the custodian of “Papers With Code,” the free and open resource for machine learning papers and code.

A regulatory filing for Deeptide reveals that Facebook became a majority owner on 13th December 2019. The same day, Atlas ML co-founder Robert Stojnic published a Medium post titled “Papers with Code is joining Facebook AI,” which went largely unnoticed outside of the machine learning research community.

Terms of the deal -- or even that the acquisition took place -- weren’t announced by Facebook at the time, beyond Stojnic’s sanctioned post. However, according to my sources within London’s tech community, the ballpark price is thought to have been around $40 million or thereabouts.

Founded in 2018 by Stojnic and Ross Taylor, Atlas ML wanted to “make it easier to discover and apply deep learning research”. The young startup was an alumni of Entrepreneur First (EF) -- along with Bloomsbury and Scape -- and raised subsequent seed funding from Episode1 and Kindred Capital.

I've contacted Facebook for comment and will update this post if and when I hear back.