Around 46% of the AI companies acquired since 2012 have had VC backing.

Corporate giants like Google, IBM, Yahoo, Intel, Apple and Salesforce are competing in the race to acquire private AI companies, with Ford, Samsung, GE, and Uber emerging as new entrants. Over 200 private companies using AI algorithms across different verticals have been acquired since 2012, with over 30 acquisitions taking place in Q1’17 alone (as of 3/24/17). This quarter also saw one of the largest M&A deals: Ford’s acquisition of Argo AI for $1B.

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In 2013, Google picked up deep learning and neural network startup DNNresearch from the computer science department at the University of Toronto. This acquisition reportedly helped Google make major upgrades to its image search feature. In 2014 Google acquired British company DeepMind Technologies for some $600M (Google’s DeepMind program recently beat a human world champion in the board game “Go”). Last year, it acquired visual search startup Moodstock, and bot platform Api.ai. More recently, in Q1’17, Google acquired predictive analytics platform Kaggle.

Apple has been ramping up its M&A activity, and ranked second with a total of 7 acquisitions. It recently acquired Tel Aviv-based RealFace, valued at $2M.

Intel, Microsoft, and Facebook are tied for third place. Intel acquired 3 startups in 2016 alone: ItseezNervana Systems, and Movidius, while Facebook acquired Belarus-based Masquerade Technologies and Switzerland-based Zurich Eye recently. Microsoft recently acquired Genee and conversational AI startup Maluuba 

Twitter is the next most-active acquirer, with 4 major acquisitions, the most recent being image-processing startup Magic Pony.

Salesforce, which joined the race in 2015 with the acquisition of Tempo AI, made two major acquisitions last year: Khosla Ventures-backed MetaMind and open-source machine-learning server PredictionIO. GE made 2 acquisitions in November 2016: AI-IoT startup Bit Stew Systems, and CRM-focused Wise.io.

The timeline below shows the M&A activity of corporations that have made 2 or more acquisitions since 2012. (Note: The exact dates for Apple’s Novauris and Amazon’s Orbeus acquisitions are not known. They are marked with a star to indicate approximate date of acquisition.)

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AI acquisitions (2012-2017 YTD)
Company Country M&A Date Acquirer
Kaggle United States 3/8/2017 Google
Wrapidity United Kingdom 2/21/2017 Meltwater Group
RealFace Israel 2/20/2017 Apple
Argo AI United States 2/10/2017 Ford Motor Company
Invincea United States 2/8/2017 Sophos
Maluuba Canada 1/13/2017 Microsoft
Harvest.ai United States 1/9/2017 Amazon
Geometric Intelligence United States 12/5/2016 Uber
Bit Stew Systems Canada 11/15/2016 General Electric
Wise.io United States 11/15/2016 General Electric
Zurich Eye Switzerland 11/10/2016 Facebook
Barricade.io Ireland 11/2/2016 Sophos
tuplejump India 9/22/2016 Apple
Angel.ai United States 9/20/2016 Amazon
Api.ai United States 9/19/2016 Google
Palerra United States 9/19/2016 Oracle
Movidius United States 9/6/2016 Intel
Genee United States 8/22/2016 Microsoft
Otto United States 8/18/2016 Uber
SAIPS Israel 8/16/2016 Ford Motor Company
Nervana Systems United States 8/9/2016 Intel
Turi United States 8/5/2016 Apple
SalesPredict United States 7/11/2016 eBay
Moodstocks France 7/6/2016 Google
Magic Pony United Kingdom 6/20/2016 Twitter
Itseez United States 5/27/2016 Intel
Expertmaker Sweden 5/5/2016 eBay
Crosswise Israel 4/14/2016 Oracle
MetaMind United States 4/4/2016 Salesforce
Encore Alert United States 3/29/2016 Meltwater Group
Masquerade Technologies Belarus 3/9/2016 Facebook
PredictionIO United States 2/19/2016 Salesforce
SwiftKey United Kingdom 2/19/2016 Microsoft
Nexidia United States 1/11/2016 NICE Systems
Emotient United States 1/7/2016 Apple
Saffron Technology United States 10/26/2015 Intel
Perceptio United States 10/6/2015 Apple
Vocal IQ United Kingdom 10/2/2015 Apple
Orbeus United States 10/1/2015 Amazon
Whetlab United States 6/17/2015 Twitter
Sociocast Networks United States 6/9/2015 AOL
Tempo AI United States 5/29/2015 Salesforce
Timeful United States 5/4/2015 Google
TellApart United States 4/28/2015 Twitter
Explorys United States 4/13/2015 IBM
AlchemyAPI United States 3/4/2015 IBM
Granata Decision Systems Canada 1/23/2015 Google
Equivio Israel 1/20/2015 Microsoft
Wit.ai United States 1/5/2015 Facebook
Vision Factory United Kingdom 10/23/2014 Google DeepMind
Dark Blue Labs United Kingdom 10/23/2014 Google DeepMind
Jetpac United States 8/16/2014 Google
Emu United States 8/6/2014 Google
Madbits United States 7/30/2014 Twitter
Medio Systems United States 6/12/2014 Nokia
Desti United States 5/30/2014 Nokia
Cognea United States 5/20/2014 IBM
Convertro United States 5/6/2014 AOL
Novauris Technolgies United Kingdom 4/3/2014 Apple
DeepMind Technologies United Kingdom 1/27/2014 Google
Gravity United States 1/23/2014 AOL
SkyPhrase United States 12/2/2013 Yahoo
LookFlow United States 10/23/2013 Yahoo
Indisys Spain 9/13/2013 Intel
IQ Engines United States 8/25/2013 Yahoo
Mobile Technologies United States 8/13/2013 Facebook
Causata United States 8/7/2013 NICE Systems
Netbreeze Switzerland 3/20/2013 Microsoft
OCULUSai Sweden 3/18/2013 Meltwater Group
DNNresearch Canada 3/13/2013 Google
Face.com United States 5/29/2012 Facebook

We updated this timeline on 3/27/17 to include newer exits and updated information. An older version of this timeline that appeared in this article (as of Oct’16) is included below.

race_for_AI_12012016
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  • http://www.mrpeasy.com Mrpeasy.com Mfg Software

    It is good to read – AI is the future of IT.

  • Huzaifa Ali

    The Noe-liberalism is taking over be careful citizen of the earth.

  • Jordan

    AI will be everywhere

  • Ezrad Lionel

    Except no one on the planet has made AI yet, nor is it, or ever has been a foregone conclusion that AI is even possible.

  • Jared Grabill

    AI has been around for years. Now *sentient* AI is a completely different matter.