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Five Innovative Embracers of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

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June 26th, 2023


Learning, Themes



Innovation is not just about having a good idea. It’s about executing on that idea and creating value for customers and society.”

Ajay Banga,

Former CEO of Mastercard

In the last in a series of articles devoted to the constituents of the Morningstar® PitchBook® Unicorn Select 20 Index™, we would like to introduce you to the fourth quartile of disruptors in terms of the size of their most recent post-money valuations (as per 31 May 2023). As we shall discover, there is considerable diversity among today’s leading embracers of AI, spanning fast-growing industries such as communications software, financial software, fintech, and business software.

Four of these companies have a heritage of at least a decade, so they are typical unicorns in that they have firmly established businesses that continue to grow rapidly.


Discord is an American VoIP and instant messaging social platform. Users have the ability to communicate with voice calls, video calls, text messaging, media, and files in private chats or as part of communities called "servers". More than 30 million people already use AI apps on Discord every month. Discord’s clients use AI to supercharge conversations - facilitating brainstorming together, creating together, and making memes together. Discord also allows gamers to chat while playing without affecting performance. As such, it provides both entertainment and utility, as well as being fun and informative. 

In early March Discord launched a set of new AI experiences to a number of servers. At the same time it began updating its AutoMod moderation tool to harness the power of large language models. AutoMod now uses OpenAI technology to find and alert moderators whenever server rules may have been broken, while being aware of the context of a conversation. From humble origins, Discord is maintaining its heritage of constant innovation.

Blockchain has successfully developed a digital assets platform designed to revolutionize the financial services industry. Since there is no way to change a ‘block’, the only trust needed is at the point where a user or program enters data. As such, the company's platform helps facilitate quick transactions without using costly intermediaries and offers tools for real-time transaction data, crypto information, and analysis, providing investors and developers with an easy and safe way to buy, sell and store cryptocurrency. Blockchain's digital record offers insight into the framework behind AI and the provenance of the data it is using, addressing the challenge of ‘explainable’ AI.

In September of 2022, signed an agreement with Dubai’s crypto regulator Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA) and has since opened an office and hired staff members. More recently, the company has begun investing further capital into its operations in Singapore and Europe. This reflects the CEO’s conviction in crypto, and he recently revealed that the growth in economies, such as Nigeria, Ghana, and Colombia is predominantly token driven.


Using both AI and machine learning (ML), Plaid’s data network programming platform is designed to assist in connecting popular fintech applications with traditional bank accounts. It accesses transactions and personal data, such as names, phone numbers, addresses, and emails for each account from thousands of financial institutions, authenticating them and verifying information in real-time. This enables consumers and businesses to interact with their bank accounts, check balances and make payments through financial technology applications.

Despite facing multiple setbacks and over 50 investor rejections in its early years, Plaid has emerged as a dominant player in the financial technology industry since its founding in 2013. The company now serves over 4,000 corporate clients, including Fortune 500 companies. Plaid has also positioned itself as a leader in the industry by focusing on security, transparency, and innovation by giving digital wealth platforms everything they need to instantly fund accounts, deliver tailored advice, and fight fraud - all on a single platform with just a few clicks.


Established in 2017, OpenSea is the first (and largest) decentralized non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace, which includes collectibles, gaming items, and other virtual goods backed by a blockchain. Similar to the eBay equivalent for crypto assets, OpenSea enables individuals (practically anyone) to buy and sell goods of their choice. The company uses AI-driven search tools to source NFTs and clients to facilitate more rapid growth.

In April, the company began to roll out OpenSea Pro, a marketplace with advanced features targeting the growing market of professional NFT traders. OpenSea Pro will operate with 0% fees and pull listings across 170 marketplaces to provide the best deals for traders. It will support advanced “floor sweeping”, instant sales, inventory management, the ability to optimize gas fees for efficient trades, a watchlist feature, and more. It will also be available on mobile devices.


Celonis has successfully developed an execution management system designed to analyze and optimize digital business processes intended to serve production, human resources, and logistics industries. The company offers unique process mining software systems for increased productivity and automated management consultancy that can be used for all business processes, enabling clients and businesses to improve process transparency and efficiency.

Using artificial intelligence, the Celonis ‘Action Engine’ offers something unprecedented to modern businesses: analytical insights that can be put to work in day-to-day operations. The AI monitors every open case (i.e. order, invoice, ticket) and can predict likely outcomes, recommend steps to assist in achieving targets, and help execute those steps automatically. The goal of Action Engine is not to achieve a reduction of headcount across a company; instead, it ensures that every employee’s talents are used to optimal efficacy by pairing each complex issue with precisely the right human mind to execute the task in ways that AI is currently incapable of.

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