Uljan Sharka: Albanian Immigrant in Italy Now Heads Billion-Dollar 'Unicorn' Company

iGenius, the artificial intelligence (AI) startup founded in 2016 by Albanian immigrant Uljan Sharka in Italy, announced on Tuesday that following investments worth €650 million, the company is now valued at €1.7 billion.

Uljan Sharka: Albanian Immigrant in Italy Now Heads Billion-Dollar 'Unicorn' Company
Uljan Sharka in the right speaking

Known for its cutting-edge AI models, iGenius recently launched "Italia," an open-source large language model (LLM) designed exclusively in Italian, capable of understanding linguistic and cultural nuances.

This investment round propels iGenius into the "Unicorn" category, placing it among the most elite AI startups in Europe and worldwide. To date, iGenius has secured investments totaling €1.05 billion.

The AI models developed by iGenius prioritize data reliability and security, ensuring safe use in production environments. The company boasts an international team operating in North America and Europe, with offices in New York and a headquarters in Milan. iGenius is investing hundreds of millions of euros to build AI models that organizations can trust and adopt at scale.

"Today, we take a giant leap forward with additional capital to drive our AI advancements in regulated sectors. Our goal is to humanize data, redefine the future of work, and bridge the skills gap, empowering individuals and businesses to reach new heights," said Uljan Sharka, CEO of iGenius.

The company believes that centralized and closed AI models are incompatible with regulated sectors such as finance or governance. These sectors require rigorous data control to comply with current regulations and protect against breaches.

Understanding Unicorn Startups

Unicorn startups are innovative and fast-growing companies, primarily operating in the technology or digital sectors, that have achieved a market valuation of over $1 billion. The term was coined in 2013 by Aileen Lee, founder of Cowboy Ventures, as a metaphor for a venture that is unique in nature. These companies have an ambitious vision and a clear mission, aiming to solve significant market and societal problems by offering innovative solutions and creating value for customers and stakeholders.

Unicorns attract qualified, motivated, and passionate staff and receive frequent and continuous investments from ventures and businesses supporting their growth and valuation. According to a CB Insights report, some famous unicorns include ByteDance ($200 billion), SpaceX ($74 billion), Stripe ($36 billion), Airbnb ($35 billion), and Didi Chuxing ($34 billion).

With its new Unicorn status, iGenius joins this elite group, poised to make significant contributions to the AI landscape and beyond.
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