Harry Shum Microsoft AI and Research Group executive vice president and Sam Altman cochair of OpenAI Photo by Brian Smale courtesy of Microsoft

Harry Shum, Microsoft AI and Research Group executive vice president, and Sam Altman, co-chair of OpenAI. (Photo by Brian Smale, courtesy of Microsoft)

Microsoft spreading more investment dollars in AI

Seven new investments span IoT, retail, and — of course — smart assistants

Microsoft has said it wants to "democratize AI" and be the Gutenberg press of the machine learning age. Now it is putting its money where its mouth is and dedicating an (unspecified) chunk of its Microsoft Ventures fund to "AI companies focused on inclusive growth and positive impact on society."

While the amount of that fund wasn't disclosed, the company has already announced seven investments in the area:

    Element AI — A Montreal-based incubator working to push academic research into viable new companies
•    i3 Equity Partners – an investment vehicle dedicated to early-stage investments in Israeli IoT startups
•    Zipwhip – a SaaS provider that enables businesses to send and receive text messages on existing landline, VoIP and toll-free phone numbers
•    Paxata – a platform provider that enables business analysts with an enterprise-grade, self-service data preparation system
•    xAd – a location intelligence software company that helps marketers unlock opportunities in the 90% of retail transactions that are still completed offline
•    Dynamic Signal – a communications platform company that increases productivity and employee engagement with timely, relevant content across multiple channels and devices
•    Tact – a sales experience platform that transforms a salesperson’s connected device into an AI-powered smart assistant

The company also sees a lot of opportunities in the field, but interestingly for a post announcing a venture fund, Microsoft Ventures' Nagraj Kashyapalso outlines some of the societal dangers:

Not long ago our CEO Satya Nadella outlined principles and goals for AI: AI must be designed to assist humanity; be transparent; maximize efficiency without destroying human dignity; provide intelligent privacy and accountability for the unexpected; and be guarded against biases. These principles guide us as we move forward with this fund.


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