Announcing the AI Fund: Building transformative AI companies

Andrew Ng on 2018-01-30

Dear friends,

I am excited to announce the formation of the AI Fund. We have raised $175 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, the SoftBank Group and others for supporting us.

In the early days of electricity, much of the innovation centered around slightly different improvements in lighting. While this was an important foundation, 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 or not 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 later. 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. A difference of six months can determine whether a new AI solution takes off or is too far behind to catch up, so we’re setting up the AI Fund to let our teams move as quickly as possible. It also allows our teams 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 Specializations product and was CEO of Sycamore, and will bring considerable product as well as business development expertise.

Eva Wang (COO and Partner), Steven Syverud (Partner) and me.

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.

Andrew Ng