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AI superstar Andrew Ng has spent the past year launching a handful of new initiatives, and now he’s at it again with the AI Fund, a startup incubator that will back small teams of experts looking to solve key problems using machine learning.
The fund has $175 million in its war chest to fund AI startups that arise within its walls. Rather than bring in outside startups and provide them with funding, Ng’s vision is to have small teams working on projects that can evolve into larger companies. It’s similar to what he did at Baidu, where he led the Chinese search giant’s artificial intelligence efforts.
Ng will serve as the incubator’s general partner and lead the AI Fund’s direction. Eva Wang, a former partner at national law firm Fenwick & West, will serve as partner and COO. The fund has some big name backers, including Greylock Partners, New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Sequoia Capital, and SoftBank Group.
The AI Fund currently has several teams investigating a number of problem spaces. Ng didn’t disclose how many teams there are or the areas they’re working in, but privacy is one of the proposed benefits of the fund. Rather than asking teams to spend time showing their products to investors and other members of the public, the incubator enables them to work in relative stealth until they’re ready.
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One company meets that first barrier to readiness: Ng’s startup Landing.ai. That company, which he unveiled last year, focuses on creating machine learning applications to help manufacturing businesses compete.
Ng sees this as the right time time for something like the AI Fund, since there are plenty of investors trying to hitch their financial wagons to the intelligent future of computing. What’s more, he thinks the teams the fund will be backing have a shot against larger players in the market because of the expertise needed to effectively deploy AI in production.
The Fund will be focused on providing funding at the seed and series A stages of a company’s lifecycle, and startups that emerge from its incubation will also have the benefit of accessing Ng’s professional network when it comes to raising money in the future.
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