Google Creates an AI Venture Fund to Invest in AI Startups

Todd Weiss

July 24, 2017

3 Min Read

With artificial intelligence research increasing around the world, Google has created a new Gradient Ventures venture fund to target investments in early-stage start-ups that are working on brilliant ideas in AI.

"Through Gradient, we'll provide portfolio companies with capital, resources, and dedicated access to experts and bootcamps in AI," Anna Patterson, the founder and manager of Google's newest venture fund wrote in a July 11 post on the Google Blog. "We'll take a minority stake in the startups in which we invest."

Among the key goals of Gradient are seeking out promising AI ideas and technologies that haven't even been imagined yet and providing them with the support they need to flourish, wrote Patterson. AI-powered technology today is already being used to improve patient health and to make data centers more efficient, but there is far more to come, she said.

"Many members of our team are engineers, so we're familiar with the journey from big idea to product launch," wrote Patterson. "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."

The first AI companies in Gradient's portfolio include Algorithmia, which is a marketplace for algorithms and functions; Cogniac, a suite of tools used to create and manage visual models; Cape, which virtualizes drone hardware to enable people to fly drones remotely; and Aurima, which focuses on the development of an alternative sensing modality that can be used with deep AI modeling.

"Through AI, yesterday's science fiction is becoming today's nonfiction," wrote Patterson. "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."

By providing funding and guidance to early-stage AI startups, Gradient's leaders hope they can help support the efforts of the fledgling companies to ensure their eventual success in the marketplace, according to the group.

Patterson, who oversees the fund's investments and activities, is a serial entrepreneur and formerly served as Google's vice president of engineering of AI. She is joined on the Gradient team by Ankit Jain, a founding partner and a director of engineering at Google; founding partner Shabih Rizvi, a former partner at venture capital fund Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; and founding manager of operations Kelsey Buntjer. The group's advisors include Dr. Astro Teller, the CEO of X, the moonshot branch of Google parent, Alphabet; Dr. Daphne Koller, the chief computing officer of Alphabet's Calico Labs; Jeremy Doig, the vice president of infrastructure engineering and VR at YouTube; Marvin Chow, the vice president of global marketing at Google; and Matias Duarte, vice president of material design and engineering at Google. Other members of the advisor team are Dr. Peter Norvig, research director of AI at Google; and Dr. Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering for machine intelligence at Google.

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