Microsoft Ventures doubles down on AI with new investments in Agolo and Bonsai
Ever feel like there’s just too much information out there?
New York-based Agolo is hoping so. The startup is developing a program that summarizes large amounts of information using artificial intelligence — and it’s one of two AI startups that announced new funding Wednesday from Microsoft’s corporate investment arm, Microsoft Ventures.
Agolo’s funding, first reported by VentureBeat, was a $ 3.5 million seed round co-led by Microsoft Ventures and Bay Area firm CRV.
The second Microsoft Ventures investment is Berkeley, Calif.-based Bonsai, which develops an AI platform that helps companies build their own intelligent enterprise tools. Bonsai announced a $ 7.6 million round of funding Wednesday co-led by Microsoft Ventures and Maryland-based firm NEA.
While the timing of the investments is a coincidence, they do point to Microsoft’s dedication to artificial intelligence technology. The company has a robust internal AI R&D program, and Microsoft Ventures started a fund dedicated in “AI companies focused on inclusive growth and positive impact on society” in December of last year.
“It’s still early days for our AI fund, but with a plethora of amazing startups out there, I’m confident in our ability to find and support more startups that are responsibly harnessing the power and promise of AI,” Nagraj Kashyap, corporate vice president at Microsoft Ventures, wrote in a blog post announcing the funding.
“By investing in startups like Agolo and Bonsai, Microsoft Ventures is supporting Microsoft’s commitment to democratizing AI and empowering people and businesses for years to come,” he said.
Bonsai’s platform has been used to automate systems including robotics, manufacturing, supply chain, logistics, energy and utilities. The company also announced a new Early Access Program on Wednesday, designed to help companies introduce enterprise AI systems.
Agolo’s tech uses artificial intelligence in a very different way. The startup’s platform uses natural language processing to “read” texts selected by a user. The algorithm then makes connections between the texts and “writes” a summary of the information.
Agolo co-founder and CEO Sage Wohns told VentureBeat that the company is already partnering with some of the world’s biggest media companies.
“There’s a crucial need for making sense of the world’s information and Agolo is filling that void. Our platform partnerships with our investors have helped us become indispensable to media companies — it’s hard to find a media company we don’t work with. And there are broader applications in diverse sectors, including financial services,” he said.
The company isn’t alone in its quest to turn creative processes over to AI. North Carolina-based Automated Insights is working to write “human sounding” articles from pure data, for example.
And Microsoft is in good company in Seattle’s AI world — last year, Apple acquired Seattle-based machine learning startup Turi, and has opened an AI-focused engineering center in the city. Research at the University of Washington and the nonprofit Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence is also driving Seattle’s AI scene, with spin-outs like Kitt.ai starting to build an AI startup ecosystem.
Startups – GeekWire http://www.geekwire.com/2017/microsoft-ventures-doubles-ai-new-investments-agolo-bonsai/