Google Placing Multiple Bets on AI – Reports

Scott Ferguson
5/31/2017

Google has seen the future and it's artificial intelligence. Now, however, the search engine giant is putting its financial muscles behind a new venture capital fund that will filter money to a number of new AI startups.

The company hasn't said much about this new fund, although multiple reports indicate that Anna Patterson, a vice president of engineering at Google who specializes in AI, will oversee the new fund. These reports also indicate that this fund will be driven by engineers rather than the money men and women typically associated with this type of venture, with the company also looking to supply mentorship, advice and even working space.

The fund is expected to make investments of $1 million to $10 million depending on the startup.

The market for AI, machine learning and analytics startups has been getting attention lately thanks to two significant acquisitions. In May, Apple confirmed it bought Lattice Dark, a company that specializes in analyzing "dark data" for an undisclosed sum. (See Apple Quietly Acquires Machine Learning Specialist Lattice Dark.)

Not a tech dinosaur.  (Source: Google)
Not a tech dinosaur.
(Source: Google)

At about the same time, Cisco announced it would pay $125 million for MindMeld, another startup that is developing AI and natural language applications. Cisco plans to use some of this technology within its Spark cloud computing collaboration products. (See Cisco Buying AI Specialist MindMeld for $125M.)

By getting into specific AI investments, Google is joining a number of big tech firms putting money into the technology, as well as a number of independent venture capital firms, including Y Combinator, Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz.


M&A activity is turning the cloud upside down. Find out what you need to know in our special report: Mergers, Acquisitions & IPOs are Rocking the Cloud.


However, it's not clear why Google hasn't talked much about this, especially since its Google Ventures fund is well known. In addition, the company talked openly about how AI fits into its plans during its recent I/O 2017 conference, including an update to its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) chips that is expected to push the limits of machine learning. (See Google's TPU Chips Beef Up Machine Learning.)

One possibility is that Google might want a first crack at buying these startups.

Also of note, the new fund and its executives will report up through Google proper, and not through Alphabet -- the overall corporate umbrella.

Related posts:

— Scott Ferguson, Editor, Enterprise Cloud News. Follow him on Twitter @sferguson_LR.

(7)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Phil_Britt
Phil_Britt
6/12/2017 | 3:41:38 AM
Re: 8/28/17
An issue with engineers making such decisions is that they may not expect a payoff for far to far in the future. Of course, "money people" often expect a payoff too soon.
kq4ym
kq4ym
6/8/2017 | 9:23:56 AM
Re: 8/28/17
Very interesting that Google is going to put the decision making in the hands of engineers instead of the traditional money men and woman who normally choose to hand out millions of dollars to startups and those companies in the AI field. It will be interesting to watch to see how the engineers do compared to the previous way of selecting candidates.
danielcawrey
danielcawrey
6/5/2017 | 12:03:39 AM
Re: 8/28/17
Big believer in AI over here. 

I really do think AI has the opportunity to take computing to the next level. Amazingly, we're still stuck using keyboards and touchpads. AI will be the new interface. 
Michelle
Michelle
5/31/2017 | 2:32:15 PM
8/28/17
As long as Google's AI product isn't called Genisys, I'm ok with it (probably). Google itself seems to share some Genisys qualities, however...
JohnMason
JohnMason
5/31/2017 | 12:14:30 PM
Re: Tribeca
If I recall correctly, Tribeca emphasized engineers over financial experts because they found engineers communicated best with other engineers, not just in terms of knowledge, but in terms of culture. I am guessing the same applies to the AI industry. Google is going the right thing, in my opinion.
Scott_Ferguson
Scott_Ferguson
5/31/2017 | 12:07:32 PM
Re: Tribeca
@John: For sure. What I thought was interesting about this was that it focused on one technology -- AI -- and that a lot of the decisions would be made by engineers over the money people. I think that makes it a very unique approach.
JohnMason
JohnMason
5/31/2017 | 10:54:36 AM
Tribeca
Sounds a little like what Tribeca Venture Partners has been doing for awhile. (I believe they came to my campus once to recruit.) Big companies have been strategically using in-house venture funding for some time.
More Blogs from Scott Ferguson

For the last several years, CIOs and IT professionals have been wrestling with two specific issues as they work toward a cloud-centric future: Agile IT and the rush toward digital transformation. While enterprises want to keep innovating, finding a starting point and knowing which projects to tackle first remain a major obstacle.

To get a better handle on Agile IT and digital transformation, Light Reading Managing Editor Scott Ferguson recently spoke to two experts in these fields: Dan Kearnan, senior director of marketing for cloud at SAP, and Roy Illsley, a distinguished analyst with Ovum.

From its roots in industrial farm machinery and other equipment, John Deere has always looked for a technological edge. About 20 years ago, it was GPS and then 4G LTE. Now it's turning its attention to AI, machine learning and IoT.
Artificial intelligence and automation will become more integral to the enterprise, and 90% of all apps will have integrated AI capabilities by 2020, according to Oracle CEO Mark Hurd.
IBM is now offering access to Nvidia's Tesla V100 GPUs through its cloud offerings to help accelerate AI, HPC and other high-throughput workloads.
CIO Rhonda Gass is spearheading an effort to bring more automation and IoT to the factories making Stanley Black & Decker tools and other equipment.
Featured Video
Upcoming Live Events
October 22, 2019, Los Angeles, CA
November 5, 2019, London, England
November 7, 2019, London, UK
November 14, 2019, Maritim Hotel, Berlin
December 3-5, 2019, Vienna, Austria
December 3, 2019, New York, New York
March 16-18, 2020, Embassy Suites, Denver, Colorado
May 18-20, 2020, Irving Convention Center, Dallas, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Partner Perspectives - content from our sponsors
Multiband Microwave Provides High Capacity & High Reliability for 5G Transport
By Don Frey, Principal Analyst, Transport & Routing, Ovum
5G + Cloud + AI + Ecosystem, Opening New World of Video
By Samuel Chen, President, Cloud & Data Center Marketing, Huawei
All Partner Perspectives