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Salesforce will launch $50 million fund for AI startups

The cloud-computing giant has upped its work with artificial intelligence through tools such as Salesforce Einstein.


Salesforce's investment arm is launching a $50 million fund to invest in AI-focused startups.

Salesforce Ventures, the investment arm of cloud-computing giant Salesforce, is launching a $50 million fund to invest in startups focused on artificial intelligence, according to Reuters.

Salesforce has been working more and more with artificial intelligence (AI) through its Salesforce Einstein tool, which marks its first year on Tuesday. More than 7,000 developers are building AI apps with Einstein, according to Matt Garratt, vice president of Salesforce Ventures.

Interest in AI has been rising across the tech industry. According to CB Insights, deals tied to AI startups increased from 150 in 2012 to 698 in 2016. So far in 2017, $6.5 billion of capital has been handed out across more than 650 deals, compared with $5.7 billion across nearly 1,000 deals in 2016.

Garratt said the first thing Salesforce Ventures looks for in a startup is that it can use Salesforce to extend its AI technology.

"Once we find that alignment, we look for a talented management team, innovative products that extend our offerings, large market opportunity, and a strong company vision that will resonate with our customers," Garratt said.

In addition to funding, the startups will also have access to Salesforce's customer base and guidance from executives.

The first recipients of the fund are AI startups Highspot, Squirro and TalkIQ. Salesforce Ventures has also invested in All Turtles, an AI startup studio that helps founding teams and companies build AI-centric products.

First published Sept. 19, 9:52 a.m. PT.
Update, 1:29 p.m.: Adds comment from Matt Garratt.