Salesforce Ventures Launches $50 Million AI Startup Fund

Salesforce Ventures Launches $50 Million AI Startup Fund

Salesforce Ventures is launching a $50 million ‘AI Innovation Fund’ to invest in artificial intelligence startups. They announced Highspot, Squirro and TalkIQ would be the first recipients of funding from the corporate investment group.

Salesforce is a cloud computing company based in San Francisco. It was founded in March 1999, in part by former Oracle executive Marc Benioff, as a company specializing in software as a service (SaaS). Today, it is one of the world’s leading CRM software and enterprise cloud providers. The company launched its ‘Einstein’ technology a year ago and artificial intelligence has become a priority ever since.

“There’s a tremendous surge in companies who are providing unique AI innovations,” said John Somorjai, executive vice president of Salesforce Ventures. “We want more of those companies to do these innovations on Salesforce’s platform.”

Venture capital investments in AI startups has been on the rise in recent years. Global financing for AI start-ups is projected to surpass $10.8 billion in 2017, artificial intelligence market to grow at a CAGR of 50.5% during the period 2017-2021. However, it did raise some interesting points about factors hindering the growth of the market.

It said one of the major challenges facing the market is developing AI technologies. AI-based technologies, such as deep learning, require large amounts of data as their knowledge base to interpret real-time data and make decisions. This point is echoed by Salesforce themselves. When they introduced Salesforce Einstein last year, they wrote the following:

“For many companies, the technical expertise, infrastructure and other resources required to deliver AI solutions is too significant to leverage in their enterprise applications. Powered by advanced machine learning, deep learning, predictive analytics, natural language processing and smart data discovery, Einstein’s models will be automatically customized for every single customer, and it will learn, self-tune, and get smarter with every interaction and additional piece of data.”

“What we’re doing with this fund is really doubling down on that commitment to bring more AI-centric solutions to our customers,” Somorjai said.

Salesforce's Einstein artificial intelligence platform celebrates its one-year anniversary this week and the CRM giant is marking the occasion by expanding the number of AI tasks performed by the technology. For example:

  • Einstein Forecasting will use data mining and machine learning to help sales team leaders make detailed sales projections.
  • Einstein Opportunity Scoring will help sales teams identify, surface, and prioritize the most valuable deals in the sales pipeline.
  • Einstein Email Insights will use natural language processing (NLP) to identify the most important emails and recommends the best action or response.

"As we celebrate our first year of Salesforce Einstein, we're excited to introduce the next generation of Sales Cloud Einstein, an unparalleled sales platform," said Adam Blitzer, EVP and GM of the Salesforce Sales Cloud. "Now, equipped with predictive and intelligent capabilities, Sales Cloud Einstein has cracked the traditionally flawed forecasting model, bringing AI to every step of the sales cycle."

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