- Andrew Ng is one of the world’s most respected artificial intelligence researchers and executives.
- He has a new $US175 million fund backed by Silicon Valley’s biggest names to invest in AI businesses.
- He calls AI the “new electricity.”
Andrew Ng may not be a household name like other tech entrepreneurs, but he’s very in-demand among techies both in Silicon Valley and in China.
Ng is one of the top experts in machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies in the world – he’s taught at Stanford, worked at Google, and most recently was the chief scientist at Chinese tech giant Baidu. People legitimately call him a genius.
Now he’s got a huge pile of money to invest in companies working in AI, which he calls the “new electricity.”
His fund, “AI Fund,” announced on Monday that it’s raised $US175 million from some of Silicon Valley’s biggest investors, including Sequoia, Greylock Partners, Softbank Group, and NEA. Ng will be the fund’s general partner.
What he’s going to do with that money is found and build new artificial intelligence businesses in-house. In a blog post, Ng wrote that his fund is already “pursuing three new AI-powered directions,” and part of his plan seems to make funds available to researchers so they can keep what they’re working on secret for longer.
“As such projects mature and turn into businesses, the AI Fund will provide additional capital to these teams and thereby give them the ability to move quickly, and not be distracted by months of fundraising,” Ng wrote. “It also allows them to publicize their work only when they are ready.”
The first public investment Ng’s fund has made is Landing.AI, a nascent company founded by Ng that uses machine learning algorithms to improve manufacturing quality.
In addition to spending money on AI companies, Ng also says that he will “invest heavily” in global training programs, and he calls it a “urgent societal problem” that lots of people could lose their jobs because of the rise of automated technologies.
“I want to make sure every person can gain the skills needed to thrive in the AI economy, and every person has a shot at meaningful work,” he wrote.
Read the entire blog post below:
I am excited to announce the formation of the AI Fund. We have raised $US175 million, and will be sequentially initiating new businesses that use AI to improve human life. As we grow these businesses, we also hope to help many of you enter the field of AI, and do the important work of building an AI-powered society.
We are grateful to our investors, including NEA, Sequoia, Greylock Partners, and the SoftBank Group, for supporting us.
In the early days of electricity, much of the innovation centered around slightly different improvements of lighting. While this was an important debate, the really transformative applications, in which electric power spurred massive redesigns in multiple industries, took longer to be grasped. AI is the new electricity, and is at a similar inflection point.
When I was leading Baidu’s AI Group, part of my job was serially building teams to explore new directions, and then systematically assessing their potential and deciding whether to go forward with specific AI businesses. In addition to being a lot of fun, it hammered home to me something that I’d felt since the early days of Google Brain: that we can develop systematic and repeatable processes to initiate and pursue new AI opportunities.
We are starting to see how AI will transform almost every industry. AI Fund teams are currently pursuing three new AI-powered directions, some of which we hope to announce at a later date. As such projects mature and turn into businesses, the AI Fund will provide additional capital to these teams and thereby give them the ability to move quickly, and not be distracted by months of fundraising. It also allows them to publicize their work only when they are ready.
I had announced Landing.AI last month, which is focusing on using AI to transform manufacturing. The AI Fund is providing funding to Landing.AI, which will accelerate its growth.
As with any societal transformation, the transition toward AI will be jarring for some. It is an urgent societal problem to address the impact of AI and automation on jobs. My team is continuing to invest heavily in global training programs. I want to make sure every person can gain the skills needed to thrive in the AI economy, and every person has a shot at meaningful work.
I will be leading the AI Fund as its General Partner. Eva Wang will be Partner and COO, and Steven Syverud will also serve as Partner. Eva was formerly a partner at Fenwick & West, and will bring considerable operational and legal expertise to the fund, Steven had led the development of Coursera’s Specialisations product and was formerly CEO of Sycamore, and will bring considerable product as well as business development expertise.
If you work in AI, you have important work ahead. Just as the work of Thomas Edison had helped build an electric-powered society, it is now time to build an AI-powered society. The AI Fund will be working hard to accelerate this important global transformation.
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