Microsoft Ventures has announced a round of investments. They also announced a
from new fund dedicated to AI. Nagraj Kashyap, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Ventures identified six new companies the fund company has invested in. This includes five companies based in the USA and one in Israel. These are all in addition to Element AI in Canada, the first investment the new fund made.
Kashyap also highlighted the organisations that Microsoft has joined. It believes that AI offers the promise to augment human capabilities and tackle some of the worlds biggest problems. Microsoft is not alone in positioning AI as a solution. Microsoft has recently announced a partnership with OpenAI. In addition, earlier this year Microsoft joined IBM, Google, Amazon and Facebook in the Partnership on AI.
The new investments
In fact Microsoft Ventures has funded a total of 19 companies in the field and in the last quarter has added the following six companies.
- i3 Equity Partners – an investment vehicle dedicated to early-stage investments in Israeli IoT startups. Five multinationals including Microsoft raised $20 million to kick start this vehicle. The other firms invoiced are General Electric, Qualcomm, Tata and the Chinese group EcoTech HNA .
- Zipwhip – a SaaS provider that enables businesses to send and receive text messages on existing landline, VoIP and toll-free phone numbers. Another joint venture with Microsoft and Voyager investing $9 million into the startup company. Founded in 2007 by John Lauer in Detroit it is probably beyond start-up stage with customers such as Ford and ESPN Radio.
- Paxata – a platform provider that enables business analysts with an enterprise-grade, self-service data preparation system. The Paxata Series D investment was led by Intel Capital raising $33.5 million. The other investors included Air Tree Ventures, Cisco, Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners, EDBI as well as Microsoft.
- xAd – a location intelligence software company helping marketers unlock opportunities in the 90% of retail transactions that are still completed offline. It has raised $42.5 million according to Crunchbase. Thise funding came from Emergence Capital Partners, IVP (Institutional Venture Partners), W Capital Partners and Eminence Capital LLC. The funds helped xAd purchase Weatherbug. There is no detail on the level of investment from Microsoft Ventures.
- Dynamic Signal – a communications platform company that increases productivity and employee engagement with timely, relevant content across multiple channels and devices. Its Series D funding round valued the company at $125 million and saw $25 invested from 7 investors. The lead investors were Microsoft Ventures and Arkadium with Time Warner, Rembrandt Venture Partners, Venrock, Trinity Ventures, Focus Ventures also contributing.
- Tact – a sales experience platform that transforms a salesperson’s connected device into an AI-powered smart assistant. The funding round completed in December and saw Upfront Ventures lead a series B funding round for $15 million with Redpoint, Accel Partners and Microsoft Ventures also involved.
What is interesting is the number of companies involved in investment rounds. The investment market for Artificial Intelligence is very active. 2017 is likely to see more bots and other AI creations come into the market. Microsoft is sensibly investing in the future and is not going to stop the investment coming. Not all of the companies will be successful. If Microsoft pick just one winner and either acquire and realise a major multiple on others they will be pleased. Where these companies are in a year’s time we shall see.
Note the above article was corrected due to an error in understanding. Microsoft issued the following clarification : “Microsoft Ventures only invested in one company from the new AI fund – Element AI. All of the other investments announced Monday came from Microsoft Ventures, but not from the new fund.”