As you may or may not remember, a little over a month ago Google launched a fund intended to be used for investing in artificial intelligence (AI) companies. Well, in timely fashion, the fund has invested in a project for the very first time.
Anna Patterson, Google’s vice president of engineering for AI is now leading a $10.5 million Series A into something called Algorithmia, which is a enterprise and marketplace solution used by developers to get access to a catalog of nearly 4,000 functions, algorithms, and machine-learning models.
Algorithmia had other participants for the round of funding, as well, including Osage University Partners, Rakuten Ventures, Madrona Venture Group, and new investor Work-Bench.
As reported by TechCrunch, CEO of Algorithmia, Diego Oppenheimer, said, “There are a lot of people coming to VCs and saying: We are AI for this — and we are AI for that. But there aren’t that many that are enabling this. The back-end operations, the scaling. Everybody believes that toolset is necessary.”
Google and Algorithmia want to change that. If there are tons of developers out there in need of these tools, it seems worth pursuing a project that directly provided that to them, for a price. The marketplace works like follows: A developer uploads something they have created, such as a machine-learning model that can identity a serial number from a photo, and then if someone wants to use it, the original developer gets paid. Algorithms exist on the cloud, making it easy to access and implement them into websites, apps, and other projects.
More About Algorithmia
Algorithmia is based out of Seattle and has about 45,000 developers using their platform with the actual algorithms coming from individual developers and university researchers from around the world. There are only 13 people on staff however, with the majority being engineers. One of the things funding will help with is bringing that team number up to 23 or so by the end of 2017. The team is also planning to open an office in New York City for its solutions engineers and sales team.
Patterson said, “We were impressed with Algorithmia’s engineering capabilities and community promise. They’ve built a secure and scalable marketplace for AI models that allows developers to openly collaborate.”
What Happens Next?
There’s no way to assure that by Google jumping on board, Algorithmia will do well. However, it also certainly cannot hurt. Steve Blank, professor at Stanford, explains that the history of technology shows that the dominant companies often are outmaneuvered by startups in the end. By getting involved with those startups and being a part of their team, Google is hedging their bets on staying relevant, which just may work.
However, as Blank explains, it might not. “Machine intelligence is not like inventing a better sword, it’s like inventing gunpowder. Smart startups will figure out how to attack large tech companies with it just as large tech companies used it to attack the companies before them.”