Within the newest signal of Microsoft’s continued funding in synthetic intelligence, Microsoft Ventures introduced immediately that it’s teaming up with three enterprise capital firms from Seattle, London, and Israel to host a global competition for startups constructing AI-related expertise.
Known as Innovate.AI, the brand new competition invitations firms to compete for $1 million in enterprise funding and $500,000 in Microsoft Azure credit that may go to every regional winner from North America, Europe, and Israel. A fourth “AI for Good” prize that features $500,000 in funding and $500,000 in Azure credit will go to a different startup.
Seattle-based Madrona Enterprise Group; London-based Notion Capital; and Vertex Ventures Israel are the collaborating enterprise capital firms. Every will take fairness stakes within the profitable groups, as will Microsoft Ventures, the corporate’s funding arm that launched last year.
Madrona Enterprise Group Managing Director S. “Soma” Somasegar, a Microsoft veteran who joined Madrona in 2015, initially reached out to Microsoft Ventures chief Nagraj Kashyap about teaming up for an AI startup competition. Kashyap appreciated the concept however Microsoft wished to do one thing on a global scale — therefore why the opposite two VC firms are concerned.
Kashyap mentioned the competition is an environment friendly manner for Microsoft to search out up-and-coming AI firms past its typical bandwidth, whereas it additionally provides entrepreneurs an opportunity to land funding.
“We got here to the conclusion that if we wish to solid a wider web, that is the way in which to do it,” he instructed GeekWire.
Somasegar in contrast Innovate.AI to the hit present American Idol.
“We wished to assist floor and establish nice entrepreneurs with improbable concepts, and we wished to do it in a thematic manner,” he mentioned.
Microsoft and the enterprise capital firms will every make an funding within the profitable firms that Somasegar described as a regular convertible notice. Any mental property will stay with the startups, that are eligible if they’ve raised lower than $4 million in mixed fairness funding and/or loans.
As much as ten finalists will qualify from every area for an opportunity to pitch their firms this spring. Startups can apply for the competition by the tip of the calendar 12 months. You will discover extra data on the Microsoft Ventures website.
That is one other signal of Microsoft’s continued funding in AI-related applied sciences. Final 12 months the tech big shaped a 5,000-person engineering and research team to focus on its synthetic intelligence merchandise; the group has grown to 8,000 people since then.
“At Microsoft, we imagine AI has the facility to rework our world,” Microsoft government Peggy Johnson, who helped begin the Microsoft Ventures fund with Kashyap, wrote in a weblog submit. “By constructing and leveraging highly effective platforms like Microsoft Cognitive Providers, we are able to amplify human ingenuity in methods we by no means might have imagined: altering how we work, play and reside. Our strategy to AI isn’t simply restricted to our merchandise, but additionally how we take part within the broader group.”
Madrona can also be betting massive on AI, having invested in a dozen or so AI and machine learning-related startups over the previous 4 years. Its portfolio firms embrace Turi and Lattice Data, each of which had been acquired by Apple. Others embrace MightyAI and Algorithmia.
“We strongly imagine in AI, each at a platform degree in addition to making use of AI in vertical use circumstances,” Somasegar mentioned. “We expect there’s a great quantity of influence that AI can have on companies and shoppers round world.”
Somasegar famous that partnering with Microsoft on Innovate.AI is one other instance of how the Seattle region is an epicenter for AI and machine learning technology development.
“We expect Seattle continues to be an important innovation hub for AI,” he mentioned. “We’re excited to construct on that.”