Former Google Brain founder and Baidu chief scientist Andrew Ng is not alone in his belief that A.I. still has not even broached its potential for application and enhancement across countless sectors. In fact, as one of the foremost authorities on machine learning and artificial intelligence, Ng’s announcement of a $175-million fund for A.I. startups in partnership with deep-pocketed private equity firms NEA, Sequoia, Greylock Partners and the SoftBank Group confirmed the optimism with which the most savvy investors view A.I.
There is so much capital globally that wants to go into AI, so frankly, our fundraising process was very painless, Ng told TechCrunch. If you see this wave of value creation coming, there aren’t a lot of investment vehicles for them. If you look around the world, there are only some investors to really build AI businesses.
Ng’s background makes him uniquely qualified to head up a project that selects startups in the artificial intelligence field for funding. As a computer science professor at Stanford about ten years ago, Ng encountered the ‘one algorithm’ hypothesis of artificial intelligence, which posited that, contrary to prior thought, it would take thousands of parts working in concert for machines to think in a way resembling humans.
His interest in and capability for expanding the possibilities of deep machine learning led him to Google, where he founded and led the Google Brain team, a project that sought to meld computer science with neuroscience, the result being a leap in capability of machine learning not previously possible. The result of the Google Brain project was several new software that private companies could use to improve their daily operations, including TensorFlow. Essentially, these programs input large data sets into software created by Ng’s team, allowing the machines to learn based on the specific process at hand.
Ng is nothing short of a Founding Father of machine learning and A.I., and the $175 million investment is, more than anything, an endorsement of Ng and his eye for the next great A.I. startups. Since leaving Baidu in early 2017, Ng has been somewhat of a freelancer, applying A.I. to manufacturing with Landing.ai – the first project associated with the fund – and offering a wider array of deep learning courses through his Coursera platform with Deeplearning.ai.
The newly established fund won’t take pitches, at least not at this time, saving the founders of those companies time that they would have to spend persuading investors to buy in. That’s where Ng’s deep knowledge of machine learning and A.I. comes in, as he will use his unique eye to tap the projects and companies with the greatest potential.
Once a project is selected, Ng will bring the companies in-house to found and build the businesses in his role as general partner of the fund. This process will be somewhat secretive, allowing the founders to unveil their babies only when they are ready, thanks to the funding from Ng’s group. He also plans to invest in global training that will allow those put out of work by A.I. to pivot into a new career by attaining new skills.
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, he wrote in his blog post announcing the fund.