DeepMind's $400M acquisition by Google crystallized the returns to be made in AI. Now investors from Khosla Ventures to Len Blatvanik's Access Industries are making bets on many artificial intelligence startups.

The $650M acquisition of DeepMind Technologies last January helped clarify for venture investors that there is money to be made in artificial intelligence investments.

And investors clearly gained interest in the hot AI space through 2014 pouring $309M into AI startups across more than 40 deals, according to CB Insights data prepared for Bloomberg Business.

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On a year-over-year basis, funding to pure-play AI startups, which include companies working in NLP, machine learning, deep learning and predictive APIs among other core applications, jumped 302%. The most sizable deals included Sentient Technologies‘ $103.5M Series C financing from investors including Tata, Horizons Ventures and Access Industries and Vicarious Systems‘ $40M Series B led by Formation 8. ABB Technology Ventures later extended the round by another $12M.

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The proliferation of deals in 2014 primarily went to early-stage AI companies, though. This was best exemplified by the fact that the number of startups receiving their first funding round, which included PredictionIO and Scaled Inference, rose markedly. Another example highlighting the hot investor-acquirer interest in the space was Wit.ai, which took a $3M Seed VC round led by Andreessen Horowitz in October only to be acquired by Facebook just three months later.

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