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article imageGoogle Brain founder launches $175 million AI fund

By James Walker     Jan 31, 2018 in Technology
Andrew Ng, the founder of the Google Brain deep learning project and former Baidu chief scientist, has launched a $175m fund for transformative AI businesses. The fund is backed by investors including SoftBank, Greylock Partners, NEA and Sequoia.
"The new electricity"
Ng officially announced the fund in a blog post this week. He explained why he considers AI research to be so important, noting we're still early in the technology's development. He likened the current state of AI to the introduction of electricity, where applications were primarily "slightly different improvements in lighting."
Ng said AI's true powers to transform will become apparent as the technology enters more industries. Echoing similar recent comments from Google CEO Sundar Pichai, he explained AI will be the "new electricity" that redefines the way we work and live. AI's already helping create new digital assistants, cybersecurity solutions and proactive business intelligence apps, a trend that will develop into cross-industry transformation initiatives.
"In the early days of electricity, much of the innovation centered around slightly different improvements in lighting," said Ng. "While this was an important foundation, the really transformative applications, in which electric power spurred massive redesigns in multiple industries, took longer to be grasped. AI is the new electricity, and is at a similar inflection point."
Velocity injection
The new fund is designed to help bring about the radical shift Ng's trying to create. In an interview with TechCrunch, Ng said the fund will be used to kickstart new businesses that are working with AI.
It won't be a traditional venture fund as Ng will directly create teams that iterate on ideas to build AI services. Because the funding is already available, the new businesses will be able to start implementation as soon as their concepts are complete.
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The AI Fund currently comprises three distinct businesses that are already pushing the technology into different directions. The intention is to rapidly engineer innovative AI solutions that help industries to transform, "injecting velocity" into startups and the wider AI ecosystem. The fund will also help address the societal considerations associated with AI.
Ng will lead the fund as its General Partner, overseeing the businesses that are developed within it. He'll be joined by Eva Wang as Partner and COO with Steven Syverud also appointed as a partner. Details of the specific technologies being developed haven't yet been revealed, with the exception of Ng's manufacturing-focused project which is now part of the fund.
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