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Corporates Are Getting Aggressive In AI Deals — Who Could Be Next?

Late last month, we took a look at the plethora of artificial intelligence funding deals some of the world’s biggest tech companies and their venture arms have been taking part in for the last several years.

That has seemed only to accelerate this month, as Salesforce Ventures 1Salesforce’s venture arm — announced it will double the size of its Generative AI Fund to $500 million just three months after establishing it. That was followed by AI startup Synthesia raising a $90 million Series C at a $1 billion valuation that included an investment from NVenturesNvidia’s venture capital arm.

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However, while everyone already knows Nvidia and Microsoft are making strong bids to be dominant players in the AI ecosystem with their startup investments, there are several other tech giants that also quietly have placed some bets in AI and others who have made surprisingly few.

Let’s take a look at some companies and their VC arms not covered last month and what they’ve done:

Qualcomm Ventures

Nvidia isn‘t the only U.S.-based semiconductor giant that has been looking at AI startups for the last handful of years.

Qualcomm Ventures, Qualcomm’s investment arm, has taken part in 34 funding deals since the start of 2019 involving startups using AI, per Crunchbase data.

The firm’s most active year was — not shockingly — 2021 when it invested in nine startups using AI. That included taking part in a $235 million Series C investment in Israel-based AnyVision — now called Oosto – a vision AI and facial recognition company. Those nine deals totaled $714 million in total (although Qualcomm Ventures’ stake is not known).

This year, the venture arm has made four deals in the AI space, including investing in Union City, California-based DeepHow, which develops an AI-powered learning platform for manufacturing and repair, and Brazil-based Aravita, which uses AI to try to solve waste issues.

Those deals this year, however, have been relatively small, totalling only $37 million.

Cisco Investments

Few corporate VC arms are as old as Cisco Investments — founded 30 years ago — and few have the breadth of their investment portfolio.

For some reason it is sometimes easy to pass over the networking giant and its VC arm, but they don’t overlook much — including AI. Just this week, Cisco Systems launched its own networking chips for AI supercomputers that would compete with offerings from the likes of Broadcom and others.

While not nearly as active as some other VC arms, Cisco Investments has made eight different deals that would fall into the AI sector, per Crunchbase data.

Its most recent deals include participating in a $4.7 million round for Israel-based Voiceitt, an automatic speech recognition technology platform last December, as well as a huge $140 million Series D for Palo Alto, California-based Uniphore, a startup specializing in conversational automation, in March 2021.

The deals the investment arm participated in last year totaled $78 million — actually down from 2021 when it took part in two rounds that totaled $160 million.

Amazon Alexa Fund

Another company one would logically think has its eye on AI would be retail and web giant Amazon. However, for the most part Amazon and its AWS division have only made a select few investments in AI-related startups. 

However, its Alexa Fund has been quite active in making AI deals — participating in 20 different rounds since the start of 2019, per Crunchbase data.

The fund has not made any deals this calendar year, but made a handful even last year, including participating in a $55 million Series D for Irvine, California-based Syntiant, a deep learning tech company that develops AI voice and sensor solutions, in March 2022.

That same month, the fund also participated in a $24 million Series A in London-based Logically. The startup uses artificial intelligence and expert analysts to detect and assess disinformation that can harm companies and governments.

The deals the fund participated in last year totaled $85 million.

The others

Some other big tech goliaths also have made a select few deals in the AI space — although logic would dictate they will make more.

Social media and advertising giant Meta made a handful of deals between 2021-22, but none this year, per Crunchbase data.

However, its deals were rather intriguing. Meta took part in a $19 million Series A for Paris-based PhotoRoom, an AI-enabled image capturing app which creates studio-quality product pictures.

Meta also was included in Mountain View, California-based Inworld AI’s $7.2 million seed round. The metaverse startup is a developer platform for AI-driven virtual characters and immersive realities.

Oracle is another company that has not made too much noise investing in AI startups through the years, but the company did make a couple this year — its only, per Crunchbase data.

Most notably, Oracle took part in Toronto-based Cohere’s $270 million round in May. The startup’s AI platform competes with OpenAI.

It also took part in a pre-seed round for New Haven, Connecticut-based ChestAi, which provides AI-based image analysis for chest diseases. ChestAi:

Just like the other companies and VC arms mentioned above, expect the number — and value — of the AI deals the likes of Meta and Oracle will participate in to significantly increase in the coming months. 

Further reading:

Illustration: Dom Guzman

  1. Salesforce Ventures is an investor in Crunchbase. They have no say in our editorial process. For more, head here.

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