Google’s investment interests have typically covered a variety of markets and the search giant is now making a formal step into an up-and-coming space. Google announced Tuesday the launch of Gradient Ventures, a venture fund designed to target and invest in young startups focusing on artificial intelligence development.
In a blog post announcing the venture fund, Google said it wanted to play a role in helping to foster development in the AI research space.
Through Gradient, we’ll provide portfolio companies with capital, resources, and dedicated access to experts and bootcamps in AI. We’ll take a minority stake in the startups in which we invest.
Many members of our team are engineers, so we’re familiar with the journey from big idea to product launch. 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.
At launch, Gradient has four companies in its portfolio: developer community Algorithmia, software company Cogniac, drone develop Cape and Aurima. Anna Patterson, managing director and founder of Gradient Ventures, told CNBC the firm plans to invest in around 10 to 15 deals in 2017 and wants to put around $1 million to $8 million in each one.
As for potential investment targets, Gradient wants part of its appeal to be the resources it could provide through its parent company. The firm touts resources ranging from experts in fields like deep learning and machine learning to having Google engineers potentially sit in and consult with startups on a short-term basis.
For Google, which already has other venture capital arms like GV, launching a secondary firm like Gradient that’s dedicated solely to artificial intelligence investment speaks to the interest that AI has sparked among tech companies.
The broadly defined field covers a wide range of applications, ranging from enterprise users who want to improve internal data analysis to home speaker programs like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. As with related fields like self-driving car research, many analysts consider AI to be a potentially industry-shifting platform in the near future.
Within the past few years, investor and research attention has also reflected this. Last month, Canadian AI research firm Element AI received $102 million in Series A funding. Google and Microsoft have also made significant investments in various research teams and programs in Canada this year.