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Artificial intelligence and machine learning are continuing to level the playing field for businesses of all shapes and sizes, especially when it comes to enabling capabilities that have been available to only the largest of organizations.

And this is especially true in the way apps and websites are leveraging access and insights from first and third-party data sources to compete with consumer-focused behemoths such as Amazon.

An example of this in action?

Barnraiser — the good food and healthy living platform — has announced today the launch of its new Discover search and recommendation engine, which uses machine learning to help users continually explore and engage with the growing amount of information available from its 40,000 food makers, farmers, chefs, and tastemakers.


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Barnraiser has already seen a good level of success since it was founded in 2014. Based in Sausalito, Calif., the company has raised over $2 million in funding. Billed as a crowdfunding site for good food and healthy living — a Kickstarter for foodies, if you will — it was founded by its CEO, Eileen Gordon, who told me she started the business as a way to “connect the millions of Americans who want sustainable farming with those that are making, growing, and providing the food.”

“We’re enabling the growing consumer base to connect with the growing maker base,” Gordon said.

Today’s launch shows how machine learning and AI capabilities are offering smaller businesses the opportunity to play on a world stage. I’ve seen Barnraiser’s Discover in action, and it provides functionality that could be described as the child of Pinterest’s boards and Amazon’s recommendation engine.

By using machine learning to understand user affinities and preferences, it not only provides relevant search results and recommendations but also proactively suggests new experiences for each user. And while the platform has had an extraordinary success rate for funding food projects — Forbes reported last year that 65 percent of projects on Barnraiser are successfully funded, versus around 26 percent for Kickstarter — these new capabilities will help drive higher engagement, further increasing the chance of success.

Of course, as user participation increases so does Barnraiser’s ability to generate revenue — for itself, and for makers who use the platform.

“We monetize the site through both native ads and content and commissions on the transactions, funding, and subscriptions associated with each project,” Gordon said.

Mostly, Barnraiser’s story shows the current impact of machine learning and AI. These capabilities are allowing emerging startups the ability to punch well above their weight and to scale quickly.

“We’ve launched our Discover platform with over 40,000 food makers, farmers, chefs, and tastemakers to connect with the 80 million people in the U.S. who care about how they eat and live,” Gordon said. “The platform gives exposure to the producers and brands of all sizes to find new audiences, raise capital, and connect with customers.”

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