Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) and Intel Corp. (INTC) all participated in a round of fund raising for Element AI, the Canadian artificial intelligence startup, as the technology powerhouses go after the burgeoning market.

According to media reports, Microsoft made the investment via its venture capital arm Microsoft Ventures, while Intel did it via Intel Capital. The startup that developed a platform to help companies of all sizes build AI into their businesses, raised $102 million. The Series A round of funding was led by Data Collective, a San Francisco VC firm. Microsoft is a previous investor in Element AI, which splashed onto the scene just a mere eight months ago.


Element AI told ZDNet that it will use the funding to hire more employees, to invest in big AI projects and to acquire startups in the space. "Artificial Intelligence is a 'must have' capability for global companies," said CEO Jean-François Gagné in a statement. "Without it, they are competitively impaired if not at grave risk of being obsoleted in place."

MSFT's Leap Into AI

For the Redmond, Wash., software giant, Element AI marks yet another instance where it recently backed a company focused on this new technology. In May it co-led a $7.6 million VC round of funding for Bonsai, the Berkeley, Calif.-based AI startup, and invested in Agolo, a New York City-based AI startup. Bonsai’s AI technology is designed to help manufacturing, retail, logistic and similar markets incorporate AI into their businesses. Agolo provides AI systems to some of the world’s biggest media companies to summarize their news on Facebook and via Amazon’s Alexa, voice-activated personal assistant. (See also: Sports Betting: The Next Big Thing for Artificial Intelligence.)

But it’s not just Microsoft that is setting its sights on the market. Chipmaker NVIDIA is also becoming a force, which has prompted Citigroup to predict the stock could hit $300 a share. In a recent research note, Citi analyst Atif Malik said the company is in the early stages of transitioning from a maker of PC graphics chips to a leader in AI, which could drive future growth.

"Element AI will benefit by continuing to leverage NVIDIA's high performance GPUs and software at large scale to solve some of the world's most challenging issues," Jeff Herbst, VP of business development at NVIDIA, said in a statement to ZDNet about its participation in the round of fundraising. Meanwhile Intel recently announced it is forming a separate AI business unit that will be led by former Nervana CEO Naveen Rao. (See also: Intel Forms New Unit to Zero in on AI.)


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