Artificial intelligence

Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen’s Institute Backs AI With $30M Fund

Illustration of robots at chalkboard-Artificial Intelligence

The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence announced on Wednesday a new $30 million fund to support AI-focused startups, GeekWire reported.

The Allen Institute was launched in 2014 by Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft. Since then, the organization has worked closely with artificial intelligence trends over the decade, onboarding over 100 researchers, engineers and business-minded folks to tackle projects related to AI.

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Admittedly, $30 million is a rather humble amount of funding, especially considering how generative AI startups have managed to raise billions of dollars in the span of a couple years. But the Allen Institute plans on using it to back five to seven startups a year for four years. Startups are going to be in their pre-seed stage.

Four years ago, the Seattle-based Allen Institute launched its first AI2 Incubator fund to the tune of $10 million. Now, the fund is back, this time with $30 million backed by venture firms such as Sequoia Capital, Madrona Venture Group and Two Sigma Ventures.

Funding the AI buzz

Plenty of startups have begun to classify themselves as AI startups ever since ChatGPT entered the scene in November, latching on to the newest tech buzzword to enthrall venture firms. But the Allen Institute is laser-focused on very specific AI applications and startups that are built around AI, not the other way around.

Those applications include generative AI, similar to ChatGPT or Midjourney, which generate text or images based on a prompt. Companies in the marketing and creative industries have latched on to generative AI as a way to brainstorm ideas or generate prototypes.

But perhaps more interesting is the Allen Institute’s interest in Domain Specific Foundation Models — AIs that are trained on hyper-specific datasets for specific tasks.

In March, Nvidia announced its generative AI product that could help businesses customize their chatbots or text-to-image platform. This kind of technology could make way for generative AI specifically used to write legal briefs at a bankruptcy law firm, for instance, or codify doctors’ notes that use specific health care language.

As it is, AI-focused startups have raised more than $19 billion in 2023, per Crunchbase data, which means the sector is on pace to beat out 2022’s funding high of nearly $42 billion.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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