Microsoft Ventures launches competition to fund AI startups


Microsoft Ventures launched a global competition that is looking to invest in startups using AI for intelligent apps, services, or platforms.

The firm is partnering with Madrona Venture Partners, Notion Capital, and Vertex Ventures to host the competition for early-stage AI companies in North America, Europe, and Israel.

“At Microsoft, the future is rooted in the advancement of AI technologies,” said Nagraj Kashyap, corporate vice president and global head of Microsoft Ventures. “We’re excited to launch this competition with a strong group of venture capitalists that recognizes the importance of leveraging these technologies to amplify human ingenuity and power innovation in AI forward.”

“AI is impacting every industry at extraordinary speed.”
– Chrysanthos Chrysanthou

Microsoft and its partners will judge 10 eligible applicants from each region — which include startups that have raised more than $4 million in funding, and working on some kind of AI/ML-related problem — in a pitch-off early next year. One startup in each region will be awarded $500,000 in funding and $500,000 in Azure credits, while one prize will be reserved for an applicant that uses AI to better society.

“Startups are already able to create significant businesses based on AI at the platform and application levels,” said S. Somasegar, managing director of Madrona Venture Group.”Now that they are leveraging emerging AI platforms, opportunities are increasing to create not only a great business, but one that has a strong and positive impact on society. As partners with our companies, we work every day to foster the kind of innovation that will change lives, and we are excited to work with Microsoft Ventures to identify passionate founders and teams that will build the next generation of intelligent applications.”

The firm will be accepting submissions from October 10 to December 31, 2017, as a way to advance its core principle of making AI more accessible to people around the world.

This is not the first time Microsoft has invested in AI innovation internationally; Montreal-based Element AI and Maluuba are two Canadian companies that have recently received funding from Microsoft.

“Businesses have always had to fight for their lives in a competitive environment, but in today’s world, the pressures are greater than ever. AI is impacting every industry at extraordinary speed,” said Chrysanthos Chrysanthou, partner at Notion Capital. “Through this partnership with Microsoft Ventures, we are excited to meet entrepreneurs who are harnessing AI to redefine entire industries on a massive scale.”


Aeman Ansari

Aeman Ansari is a freelance writer who has been published in many Toronto-based publications, including Hazlitt and Torontoist. When she’s not re-watching Hitchcock movies, she’s working on her collection of short fiction inspired by stories from her grandmother, one of the few women in India to receive post-secondary education in English literature at the time.

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