News & Views

 

Announcing the Microsoft Ventures and Madrona Venture Group AI Startup Competition
AUTHOR: S. Somasegar

Today we are announcing our partnership with Microsoft Ventures to launch the Innovate.AI global startup competition. We are thrilled to be working with Microsoft on this project to find the world’s most promising early stage startups tackling unsolved problems, at scale, using machine learning and artificial intelligence.

At Madrona we have been early believers and investors in the transformative power of Artificial Intelligence and intelligent applications. The convergence of cloud computing (massive amounts of compute and storage available on the cloud at reasonable price points), specialized chips for machine learning (e.g., GPUs and FPGAs), and new advances in machine learning algorithms has created a unique opportunity for startups to build high value intelligent applications powered by unique and proprietary sources of data.

We have invested early with several platform companies and are actively looking at vertical applications.  Examples include Turi, purchased by Apple, Lattice Data, purchased by Apple, Xnor.ai, MightyAI, Amperity, SmartAssist, Suplari, Saykara, Versive and others.

In thinking about how we might reach companies as early as possible we came up with a couple of ideas including developing an “American Idol” like competition.  In discussions with our friends at Microsoft – we saw that we were aligned on interests in finding, supporting and investing in AI focused startups in the early days and we worked together to develop the AI:Innovate competition which Microsoft is taking Global.

We believe that in the next five to ten years, the impact of these technologies will transform most industries, from education, to real estate, to manufacturing, to transportation, to healthcare and we have only begun to see the impact of machine learning on the economy and society.

Over the next six months, Madrona will work closely with Microsoft Ventures to select a batch of promising startups that are either building new products and platforms with data and machine learning at their core or using AI to build the next generation intelligent applications.  These startups will compete for a $1M investment from Madrona and Microsoft Ventures as well as an Azure package of credits, Office 365 licenses, and technical support worth over $500K.

Additionally, startups may also win an “AI for Good” prize that will be awarded to one startup that is using AI to create a positive impact on society, which will earn $500K in funding from Microsoft Ventures and Azure package of credits, licenses, and support worth over $500K.

The qualification requirements for startups to participate in the Innovate.AI global startup competition are as follows:

  • Companies that have raised no more than $4M in equity funding and/or loans at day of application
  • Companies that offer or intend to release or build a product or platform which utilize machine learning; such product/service/platform must be based on a model developed by the company, and/or be trained with data obtained/generated by the company or a 3rd party, and/or make use of pre-trained ML/AI APIs
  • Companies can utilize any technology stack or cloud platform to build their product, but the intention will be to work with the winners to help them utilize Azure and MS technology through our BizSpark offers and portfolio development efforts

See Peggy Johnson’s (EVP, Microsoft) blog post  for more details about this competition.

Madrona is excited to kick off the Innovate.AI competition with Microsoft Ventures to find the next generation of great machine learning and artificial intelligence companies. The competition begins this month with applications, and we intend to select a final winner by Spring 2018. To find out more about entering the competition or submit an application, please visit the Innovate:AI page to view more information!