Industrializing AI


Petuum is on a mission to industrialize artificial intelligence so that every business can be a builder, owner, and informed user of AI, regardless of their technical know-how. With $108 million in investor funding, it is one of the most well-funded AI startups in the world. Petuum is currently working on providing beta solutions to partners across business, manufacturing, and healthcare. 

The Challenge

When we first started working with Petuum in 2017, the company was virtually unknown outside of Pittsburgh’s academic circles and lacked both products and referenceable customer. Our goal was to develop a thought leadership presence in the AI space and ramp up technical recruiting ahead of a funding announcement. 

The Formula

Given a minimalist budget for events and travel and the complexity of Petuum’s novel technology, we decided that the best way for Petuum to begin creating industry buzz was with a content-heavy program bolstered by targeted media relations and awards programs focusing on the executives’ expertise.

To appeal to engineering candidates looking for challenging, cutting-edge work in AI/ML, we built out a robust content program that showcased the exciting research and products Petuum engineers were creating. We launched a Petuum-brand blog on Medium and worked with company executives and employees (primarily engineers) to draft and edit a mix of engineering, thought leadership, and culture-focused blog posts. We managed the writing, editing, publishing, and promotion processes of the blog, publishing between 2–4 posts per month.

We were tasked with building Petuum’s media presence from the ground up, and we relied heavily on the knowledge and pedigree of Petuum’s executive team to attract attention from top-tier media. After a month of intense pitching and interviewing, we announced Petuum’s $93M Series B in October 2017, securing articles in publications like CNBC, Reuters, TechCrunch, and VentureBeat. Post-funding announcement, we focused on increasing Petuum’s thought leadership presence by nurturing relationships with top AI reporters from outlets such as CNBC, Bloomberg, Fortune, MIT Technology Review, and This Week in Machine Learning and AI Podcast.

We worked with key members of Petuum’s team to identify and apply for prestigious awards that would put a spotlight on Petuum or its employees. 

The Results

In just over a year, we wrote and/or edited 46 unique blog posts covering technical topics, company announcements, and thought leadership topics. The blog gained over 48,600 views, more than 400 followers, and more than 400 fans. Additionally, because we maintained a consistent publishing schedule and delivered consistently high-quality content, Petuum became a “top writer” in Artificial Intelligence on Medium, meaning Petuum’s posts receive additional amplification by Medium’s editors. 

Petuum’s $93M Series B announcement earned hits in more than 20 publications, including top-tier national business and tech press. Following the announcement, we secured more than 50 media hits in 18 months. 

With thoughtful and comprehensive submissions, Petuum won local, national, and regional awards such as the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s Tech 50 Award, the Timmy Awards’ Runner Up for Best Tech Startup, the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneer, and CB Insights’ AI 100 list.

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“‘The way we treat AI is not as an artisanal craft,’ Dr. Xing explained to me in an interview. ‘We are trying to create very standardized building blocks that can be assembled and reassembled like legos.'”

“While all of the big technology companies, from Alphabet Inc.’s Google to Facebook Inc. and Inc. are racing to develop ways to use artificial intelligence, there are few examples outside that sphere of significant applications built at any meaningful scale, Petuum said. The company says it’s created a flexible operating system that makes it easy for a broad range of users to build any type of machine learning or deep learning app at scale and deploy applications on a wide range of hardware.

‘This technology should be standardized, accessible, and mass-producible, so that all can benefit from artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning,’ said Petuum founder and Chief Executive Officer Eric Xing. ‘We have surmounted many technical challenges as we work toward a standard and universal artificial intelligence platform.'”

“‘When you deploy algorithms, you need to maintain it, you need to update it, change it,’ Xing told ZDNet. ‘That is the very bottleneck of getting AI accessible,’ he says, ‘for companies that aren’t Google or Microsoft, that don’t have armies of engineers, for traditional IT teams.'”