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Nvidia’s Inception program is tracking more than 7,000 AI startups, up 25% in a year. That’s a lot of growth for AI companies in a very tough year.

Nvidia business development VP Jeff Herbst said in a blog post that crisis breeds opportunity and that AI startups are stepping up with AI, machine learning, and data science to help address the worldwide emergency of the pandemic.

“2020 served up a global pandemic that roiled the economy. Yet the startup ecosystem has managed to thrive and even flourish amid the tumult. That may be no coincidence,” Herbst said.

Herbst said Nvidia’s Inception developer support program hit a record 7,000 members, up 25% on the year. That’s a pretty good proxy for the AI economy.

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The top segments for the AI startups include IT services, health care, and media and entertainment. This reflects the global pandemic’s impact on remote work, medicine, and home-based entertainment.

Early-stage and seed-stage startups continue to be most represented among those joining Nvidia Inception. This has been a consistent trend in recent years. More than 100 startups reached the program’s premier level, which unlocks increased marketing support, engineering access, and exposure to senior customer contacts.

Developers from Inception startups enrolled in more than 2,000 sessions with the Nvidia Deep Learning Institute, which offers hands-on training and workshops. GPU Ventures, Nvidia Inception’s VC arm, made investments in three startups: Plotly, Artisight, and Rescale.

Nvidia Inception also added the Oracle for Startups program to its list of accelerator partners, which already includes AWS Activate and Microsoft for Startups, as well as a variety of regional programs. These tie-ups open the door for startups to access free cloud credits, new marketing channels, expanded customer networks, and other benefits across programs.

The Nvidia Inception Alliance for Healthcare launched earlier this month — starting with health care leaders GE Healthcare and Nuance — to provide a clear go-to-market path for medical imaging startups.

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