Google’s former founder of the Google Brain deep learning project and co-founder of Coursera, Andrew Ng has just launched the AI Fund, a startup incubator that will fund the work of experts using machine learning to solve the world’s problems.
Ng has raised more than $175 million for the fund, but this isn’t going to be a traditional venture fund. Instead, Ng and his team will use the money to initiate new businesses and build new companies in a model that’s maybe more akin to the early Betaworks model. The investors in this new fund include NEA, Sequoia, Greylock Partners and the SoftBank Group. Ng is leading the fund as a general partner, with Eva Wang serving as partner and COO and Steven Syverud also joining as a partner.
Ng will serve as the incubator’s general partner and lead the AI Fund’s direction. Eva Wang, a former partner at national law firm Fenwick & West, will serve as partner and COO.
“One of my philosophies of building companies is the importance of velocity,” Ng told me. In his view, AI businesses are also different from regular startups because you generally get a closed feedback loop that allows you to quickly see what works (and what doesn’t). “Depending on the vertical, I really value the ability to inject velocity into that positive feedback loop,” said Ng. He also believes that building AI businesses is a more repeatable process than building other startups. Indeed, he stressed that at Baidu, his job was essentially to build a series of teams for building potential AI-related businesses.
For the fund, this means that Ng plans to create teams that can then immediately start experimenting with new ideas. And because the team is already funded, there’s no need to worry and get distracted about raising funds.
Ng isn’t yet talking about what new businesses we should expect from his fund, but the first company to come out of the fund is, unsurprisingly, Landing.ai, and he told me there are currently two more projects in the works.
He also stressed that part of his staff is dedicated to thinking about the societal impact of AI, with a special focus on retraining the existing workforce to create “not just a wealthier but also fairer society.”