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article imageGoogle announces AI fund to 'make science fiction nonfiction'

By James Walker     Jul 12, 2017 in Technology
Google has announced a new venture capital fund that it will use to help innovative AI companies bring their products to market. The company said it wants to make the technologies of science fiction reality by giving entrepreneurs the resources they need.
Called Gradient Ventures, the fund will be available to small businesses and early-stage startups that are firmly focused on artificial intelligence. The goal is to help these businesses to get established and build their products.
The fund is a recognition that many of the best ideas come from individuals and teams that aren't yet established. AI is one of the most upcoming technologies currently being developed but there's no precise definition of what it constitutes. Lots of people have ideas about AI and how it can be used. The high entry barriers can make it difficult for companies to make their concepts a reality.
Google said that many of its team members who created Gradient Ventures are themselves engineers. They've taken products from the brainstorming stage through to completion and are familiar with the challenges faced along the way. The company hopes it can give emerging AI specialists access to funding that lets them bring the tech of their imagination to market.
"AI-powered technology holds a lot of promise – from improving patient health to making data centers more efficient," said Google. "But while we've seen some amazing applications of AI so far, we know there are many more out there that haven't even been imagined yet. And sometimes, these new ideas need support to flourish." Companies that are accepted into Gradient Ventures will be granted capital resources and growth opportunities to aid their development. Google will also offer access to established AI experts, enabling upcoming companies to network with leaders in the field. In return, the startups will need to grant Google a "minority stake" in their business.
Anna Patterson, Google's managing partner of Gradient Ventures, told TechCrunch that the fund is being managed directly from Google's balance sheet. This may alarm some startups considering signing up but Patterson stressed that Gradient Ventures is "ROI and not strategic" investment. Patterson added that Google hopes to benefit by "spurring innovation in the AI space," uncovering new talent and helping to develop the future of computing.
There are already four companies in the Gradient Ventures portfolio: Algorithimia, Aurima, CAPE and Cogniac. Algorithmia offers a "marketplace" of algorithms for other AI developers while CAPE builds virtual drone hardware that lets operators fly drones remotely. Aurima and Cognia both focus on creating advanced AI modelling and neural network tools.
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