Google launched an in-house AI fund to help startups turn sci-fi into ‘nonfiction’

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Can you believe “AI Artificial Intelligence” came out 16 years ago? That was a good movie.
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Warner Bros. Pictures

Google on Tuesday announced a new venture fund called Gradient Ventures, which aims to mentor and develop early-stage startups focused on artificial intelligence.

Gradient Ventures will be overseen by Anna Patterson, who has worked within many branches of Google but most recently served as the company’s VP of engineering in artificial intelligence, helping integrate AI into Google’s various products.

Google didn’t specify the size of the fund, or the amount of money it intends to invest in startups, though it noted that the fund would focus on “early stage” startups, suggesting that investments will be relatively modest. Google said it would take minority stakes in the companies it backed.

AI has become one of the most valuable building-blocks for tech companies creating new generations of products such as virtual assistants and self-driving cars. Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft are all staffing up on AI experts and acquiring companies.

Google’s new AI fund will also be led by Google engineering director Ankit Jain and Shabih Rizvi from Kleiner Perkins. Its advisors include several Google directors – Ray Kurzweil, Peter Norvig, Matias Duarte, and Marvin Chow – as well as other members across Alphabet’s properties, including Astro Teller from Alphabet’s moonshot company X, Daphne Roller from Calico, and Jeremy Doig from YouTube.

News of Google’s AI fund surfaced back in May, but Google officially unveiled the fund on Tuesday.

Gradient Ventures currently lists four portfolio companies: Algorithmia, which manages a giant marketplace of algorithms, functions, and models for researchers and organizations to use; Cogniac, which helps companies develop neural networks; Cape, which lets you fly drones using your computer; and Aurima, which is building a “deep-learning awareness platform” in California.

In a blog post, Patterson says the goal of Gradient Ventures is “to help our portfolio companies overcome engineering challenges to create products that will apply artificial intelligence to today’s challenges and those we’ll face in the future.”

You can learn more about Gradient Ventures here.