Google's latest venture fund will back AI startups

Gradient Ventures will give young AI firms the early boost they need.

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Google via Getty Images
Google via Getty Images

There's no question that Google believes artificial intelligence is the future, but it doesn't feel like it needs to all the hard work by itself. It's willing to give others a helping hand. To that end, Google has launched a venture capital firm, Gradient Ventures, that will offer financial backing and "technical mentorship" to AI startups. They'll have access to experts from Google itself, including futurist Ray Kurzweil, design mastermind Matias Duarte and X lab leader Astro Teller.

Gradient already has four teams under its wing. Algorithmia is a community creating a marketplace for AI-related algorithms and models. Aurima, meanwhile, is producing both an alternative sensing approach and AI modeling. Cape is virtualizing drone hardware to help people fly the vehicles remotely, and Cogniac is writing software that helps you build convolutional neural networks.

It's not hard to see why Google would pour resources into AI startups it doesn't control directly. The larger the industry gets, the more solutions emerge for problems that might otherwise go unsolved. And of course, Google could use this VC fund to snap up interesting AI companies before anyone else. Whatever money it invests now could easily pay dividends down the road, especially if it thwarts rivals like Facebook.

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