As one of the top minds in artificial intelligence, Andrew Ng wears many hats: scientist, entrepreneur, educator, advisor, etc. Now he’s added a new one: investor.
The former Google and Baidu Chief Scientist and Coursera co-founder today announced the foundation of “AI Fund,” aimed at supporting startups that can transform businesses with AI technologies. AI Fund has thus far raised a staggering US$175 million from VC firms NEA, Sequoia, Greylock Partners, and the SoftBank Group.
Ng is AI Fund’s General Partner, while former Fenwick & West partner Eva Wang will serve as COO, bringing considerable operational and legal expertise. The fund’s third partner is Coursera Product Manager and former Sycamore CEO Steven Syverud, who has rich experience in business development.
Ng says AI Fund will not operate like traditional venture capital companies that “screen thousands of applicants in order to find a few to invest in.” Instead it will proactively identify promising AI talents and help them build companies from scratch. If the company evolves a viable AI-based system and business model, AI Fund will provide capital for further scaling. “Building AI businesses is a more systematic and repeatable process than most people think,” says Ng.
A similar AI-development methodology can be found at Element AI, a Montreal-based platform founded in 2016 that incubates advanced AI-First solutions. Last year, the company raised US$102 million in Series A funding for hiring talent, developing businesses, and investing in platform-specific AI solutions.
One of AI Fund’s first investments will be in Landing.ai, Ng’s own recently launched startup which accelerates AI implementation in manufacturing. AI Fund is currently exploring several other AI-powered initiatives which it expects to announce over the next few weeks.
AI Fund’s philosophy will permit portfolio companies to operate in stealth mode, enabling them to conceal their core technologies, upcoming products and business models from competitors’ prying eyes.
Last year Ng gestated two important AI companies — Landing.ai, and Deeplearning.ai, which offers online courses in machine learning. AI Fund is the latest step toward Ng’s goal of building a supportive ecosystem for AI opportunities, projects and products.
Journalist: Tony Peng | Editor: Michael Sarazen