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December 13, 2016updated 20 Dec 2016 11:00am

Microsoft Ventures launches new fund for AI startups

The new fund will make investments of similar size to previous Microsoft Ventures investments.

By CBR Staff Writer

Microsoft Ventures has launched an artificial intelligence (AI) investment fund and invested in AI incubator Element AI.

The new fund will make investments of similar size to earlier Microsoft Ventures investments.

In a blog post, Microsoft Ventures managing director Nagraj Kashyap noted that the new fund will make investments in start-ups that are responsibly harnessing the promise of AI in empowering people and businesses.

Companies in the fund will help people and machines work together to increase access to education, teach new skills and create jobs.

It also seeks to improve the capabilities of existing workforces and enhance the treatment of diseases.

Kashyap said: “AI holds great promise to augment human capabilities and improve society by tackling some of the world’s biggest problems.

“With today’s news, Microsoft Ventures expands our original mandate of supporting cloud companies that help enterprises navigate digital transformation.”

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Since its inception early this year, Microsoft Ventures has invested in about 19 companies including Tact, a sales experience platform designed to transform a salesperson’s connected device into an AI-powered smart assistant.

Another investment was in i3 Equity Partners, an investment vehicle dedicated to early-stage investments in Israeli IoT start-ups.

Other investments include in Zipwhip, Paxata, xAd, and Dynamic Signal.

Headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, Element AI was founded by serial entrepreneurs Jean-François Gagné and Nicolas Chapados, along with Yoshua Bengio, a co-father of deep learning technology.

It seeks to help organisations implement an AI-First strategy, allowing them to develop their own AI solutions.

Gagné said: “Along with a strategic investment that is a real vote of confidence for Element AI, Microsoft is giving us the tools and services which will help our AI network achieve scale, which will undoubtedly create new technologies that help tackle some of the world’s biggest problems.”

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