AI Funding Slowed (But Didn’t Stall) in 2015

Dyllan Furness

Dyllan explores technology and the human condition for Tech Emergence. His interests include but are not limited to whiskey, kimchi, and Catahoulas.

AI Funding Slowed (But Didn't Stall) in 2015

In 2015, more than a billion dollars was spent on artificial intelligence research. That’s more than in the field’s entire history combined. AI systems saw advancements in aspects as diverse as consciousness and comedy. Even the entertainment industry seemed to ride the wave with films like Ex Machina and Chappie performing well with critics and fans. And yet, according to venture capital database CB Insights, last year business investment (particularly on the corporate side) in AI slowed from the six-year high it found in 2014. Investment, it seems, didn’t match public and private interest.

When CB Insights categorizes its AI companies, they include any startup that’s primarily focused on developing the technology in relation to image processing, natural language processing, machine learning, keeping learning, etc. In one data analysis they determined that AI startups raised a total $967 million since 2010 across a number of industries from e-commerce to healthcare.

The 2015 figures put overall funding at $310 million dollars – nearly seven times more than the $45 million investment in 2010, but nearly 22 percent less than the 2014 figures of $394 million.

The number of investors have changed dramatically over the years as well. 2010 saw six investors while 2014 saw ten times that. By 2015 that number dropped by ten percent, from 60 to 54. The average investment also dropped by $820,000.

On the corporate side of investment in particular, 2014 was a stellar year. 21 deals brought in $230 million. But, although 2015 was higher than 2010-2013 combined, it was an over $100 million decrease from 2014.

Sentient Technologies proved to be by far the most well-funded startup since 2010. In fact, 2014’s drastic increase in funding can be attributed to the San Fransisco-based company’s $103.5 million in funding. Their patented “evolutionary” and “intent-powered” intelligences have made them a favorite amongst venture capitalists and corporate investors.

Still corporate players weren’t insignificant in 2015. Samsung Wells Fargo invested in companies Vicarious Systems and Mobvoi respectively. Meanwhile Bloomberg Beta, one of the most active investors, put funding towards Howdy, Domino Data LabContext Relevant, and Diffbot to name a few.

Just in the past couple months, a few more AI-focused startups have managed to finds funding in the difficult market. Ontario-based Maluuba, UK’s Seldon, and US-based have already raised healthy funding. Previously supported by Samsung Ventures, Maluuba raised $6.2 million from other investors in its Series A round. 2016 it seems is off to a strong start!

Image credits: Jeremiah Wingett

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