As part of an annual look at global AI investment trends, CB Insights today reported that AI startups raised a record $26.6 billion in 2019, spanning more than 2,200 deals worldwide. That’s compared to roughly 1,900 deals totaling $22.1 billion in 2018 and about 1,700 deals totaling $16.8 billion in 2017.

The reported high recorded by CB Insights in the AI in Numbers report is in line with analysis by other organizations keeping an eye on investment in the AI ecosystem. The National Venture Capital Association earlier this month said that although overall venture capital spending took a dip last year, investors spent a record $18.4 billion on AI startups in the United States in 2019.

With investment highest in fields like autonomous driving, drug research, finance, and facial recognition, the AI Index 2019 report released last month found more than $70 billion in global private investment in AI.

Crunchbase also took a look back at 2019 AI startup investment trends and found an increase in investment compared to 2019, while Pitchbook recorded a decrease in both the size and number of deals between 2018 and 2019.

The number of AI startup unicorns also rose in 2019. New unicorns include autonomous delivery company Nuro and business analytics firm DataRobot.

Also new in the CB Insights report:

  • Early-stage deals continue to dominate, with more than 70% of deals going to early-stage or series A funding rounds.
  • 10 companies — including UiPath, Megvii, and Nuro — raised funding rounds higher than $100 million. All 10 companies are based in China, the U.K., or the U.S.
  • Accounting for $4 billion of the 26.6 billion, health care leads the way in global AI startup deal distribution, followed by industries like finance ($2.2 billion), retail ($1.5 billion), sales, and cybersecurity.
  • Merger and acquisition activity was also highest in health care, sales, and retail industries.

Venture capital firms like Plug and Play Ventures, Accel, and Lightspeed Ventures are among the VC firms with the most deals in 2019. In corporate venture capital, Intel Capital and Google Ventures topped the number of deals, followed by SBI Investment in Japan. Baidu Ventures in China ranked eighth on the list, followed by Salesforce Ventures.

The number of equity deals with corporate venture capital spending participation has seen a 4 times increase in recent years. In 2014, corporate venture capital was involved in 99 deals, while in 2019 VCs from corporations like Google or Intel were involved in 435 deals.


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