AI academics in big demand

Tech giants are locked in a bidding war for academics who specialize in artificial intelligence.

As per a report from Research firm CB Insights, 34 artificial intelligence startups were acquired in the first quarter of 2017, which is double the of the previous year of the same quarter.

This insight is likely to be significant, since it underscores efforts made by the tech industry to reinforce their leads in artificial intelligence.

Leading the group is acquisition made by Google. The Alphabet owned company has acquired 11 AI startups since 2012. It is followed by Apple Inc, Facebook Inc, and Intel Corp, respectively, as per CB Insights.

Although the companies declined to comment on their acquisition strategies, a spokesman for Apple confirmed the company’s recent acquisition of Lattice Data, a startup that specializes in working with unstructured data.

Incidentally, the first quarter of 2017 also saw Ford Motor Co sink in $1 billion in Argo AI, founded by former executives on self-driving teams at Google and Uber Technologies Inc.

“What you will see is very big players will build platform services, and startup communities will migrate more to applied intelligent apps,” said Matt McIlwain, managing director of Madrona Venture Group.

Forward, a healthcare startup, is using AI to help doctors up their levels of recommended drug choices.

“For people who really want to focus on core AI problems, it makes a lot of sense to be in bigger companies,” said Adrian Aoun, Forward’s CEO. “But for folks who really want to prove a new field, a new area, it makes more sense to be separate.”

AI companies that are still independent have a steady stream of suitors.

Case in point: as per Matthew Zeiler, the chief executive of Clarifai, a company which specializes in video and image recognition, he has been approached more than a dozen times by prospective acquirers since starting the company in late 2013.

“(Google) literally competes with almost every company on the planet,” said Zeiler. “Are you going to trust them with being your partner for AI?”

Tech giants are locked in a bidding war for academics who specialize in artificial intelligence.

Although startups rarely have the capital to compete however a company with a specialized mission can potentially win over recruits, said Vic Gundotra, chief executive of AliveCor, which makes an AI-driven portable heart monitor.

“They say, ‘I want to come here and work on a project that might save my mother’s life,’” said Gundotra.


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