The Allen Institute for AI (AI2) started its incubator two years ago, helping to launch companies such as Xnor.ai, Blue Canoe and WellSaidLabs. His success has attracted funds not only from the Seattle local team VC Madrona, but also from Sequoia, Kleiner Perkins and Two Sigma, which resulted in a new $ 10 million fund that should help keep the lights on.
The AI2 incubator, led by Jacob Colker since its creation in 2017, has focused on launching a handful of companies every year that somehow take advantage of a great artificial intelligence advantage. Blue Canoe, for example, processes natural language with a focus on accent modification; Xnor.ai is working on very low-power machine learning algorithm implementations, and Apple acquired it yesterday for about $ 200 million.
"We believe that the next generation of the so-called first AI companies will have to graduate to build successful long-term businesses that start with an advantage in AI," said the new managing director of the program, Bryan Hale. "And the people who can help do this are the ones who have helped build iconic businesses."
Hence the participation of family names (anyway, in the startup community) Sequoia and Kleiner Perkins, and Two Sigma from New York. Madrona, based in Seattle, also recently invested in the AI2 Lexion company. It's a solid enough crowd to run and, as Colker pointed out, "they often don't come together."
"But also, they looked northwest and said: what's going on there?" Hale added. In fact, Seattle has become in recent years a paradise for artificial intelligence research, with many major technology companies establishing or expanding satellite offices here, at least in part, concerned with the issue: Apple, Google, Nvidia and Facebook , among others, and of course local standby from Amazon, Microsoft and Adobe.
In practical terms, the new fund will allow the incubator to continue on its current path, but with a little more track and potentially greater investments in the new companies with which it works.
"Now we have many more resources to help our companies succeed," Colker said. “Previously we were able to issue up to a check of $ 250,000, but now we can write up to maybe $ 800,000 per company. That means they have much more time to build their team, add training data, test their models, all these points that are important for a team to get a better and bigger round of venture capital financing. ”
AI2 prides itself on its great team of doctors and open research strategy, publishing almost everything publicly to stimulate the field onwards. Access to these great brains, many of which have created successful new businesses, is no less attractive than the possibility of more general business mentoring and financing.
Colker said the incubator will continue to produce 3-5 startups per year, each of which will take "between 12 and 18 months, from the board to risk financing." , since it is both research and development. But so far the model seems to work quite well.
“There are very few places in the world where an entrepreneur can harness the mental power of a hundred doctors and support staff. We have a new research center with 70 desks, we have plenty of room for those teams to grow, "he said." We are incredibly well positioned to support the next wave of artificial intelligence companies. "