Google launches a venture fund for AI startups

Google has a new AI venture fund.

Google has launched a venture fund for startups focused on artificial intelligence (AI), the latest move in the Alphabet-owned outfit's bid to implant itself at breakthrough uses of the technology, as well as forge a future outside of the digital media space.

The fund, Gradient Ventures, will provide portfolio companies with capital, resources and access to AI experts and bootcamps. In turn, Google will take minority stakes in these startups.

Portfolio companies include: Algorithmia, a marketplace for algorithms and functions; Aurima, a company developing an alternative sensing modality with deep AI modeling; Cape, which virtualizes drone hardware and enables people to fly drones remotely; and Cogniac, a suite of tools used to create and manage visual models.

The Gradient Ventures team includes: managing partner Anna Patterson, who was most recently Google’s vice president of engineering in AI; founding partner Ankit Jain, who is a director of engineering at Google; and founding partner Shabih Rizvi, who was most recently a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

“Many members of our team are engineers, so we’re familiar with the journey from big idea to product launch,” Patterson said in a blog post. “The goal is to help our portfolio companies overcome engineering challenges to create products that will apply artificial intelligence to today’s challenges and those we’ll face in the future.”

But Gradient can also connect startups with Google resources.

“We bring Google smarts and scale to promising, early-stage startups, providing innovators with funding, resources and dedicated access to world-class people and practices in this area,” Gradient says on its website.

“Our fund focuses on helping founders navigate the challenges in developing AI-based products, from leveraging training datasets to helping companies take advantage of the latest techniques, so that great ideas can come to life.”

In the blog post, Patterson noted that while there have been “some amazing applications of AI so far, we know there are many more out there that haven’t even been imagined yet”. And this, of course, is where Gradient comes in.

“Through AI, yesterday's science fiction is becoming today's nonfiction. There's everything to reimagine as we usher in this new era of technology — and we're excited to work with entrepreneurs to start building it,” Patterson added.

This comes just days after Google announced the launch of a similar open-source initiative PAIR, that will see it help engineer projects aimed at 'humanizing AI' by "building systems with people in mind at the start of the process".

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Lisa Lacy

Lisa Lacy is a senior reporter for The Drum, covering digital and search marketing. Based in New York, she writes about how brands use technology to connect with consumers, particularly as innovations like voice search, digital assistants and the Internet of Things change consumers’ lives forever – not to mention the data these platforms increasingly collect and the security and privacy issues therein. She is a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism. Her bucket list includes riding in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.

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