Advancements in AI were recently spotlighted by AlphaGo, a computer program developed by Google’s DeepMind team. The program — which relies on decision-making algorithms and neural networks — defeated a human European champion at the board game Go in a feat previously believed to be years away.
On the investor side, Jim Breyer of Breyer Capital has said AI will deliver massive returns for investors betting on applications for industries including healthcare and entertainment.
With this in mind, we used CB Insights’ database to look at funding to artificial intelligence startups since 2010. Our artificial intelligence category covers startups primarily focused on developing AI, across areas including image processing, natural language processing, machine learning, deep learning, and predictive APIs, among other core applications.
We found that AI startups have raised an aggregate $967M in funding since 2010, with investments going to companies in 13 separate countries and 10 industry categories, including business intelligence, e-commerce, and healthcare.
Annual deals and dollars
Funding in the AI sector has multiplied nearly sevenfold, from $45M in 2010 to $310M in 2015.
Some of largest funding rounds were raised by California-based startups Sentient Technologies ($103.5M Series C in 2014) and Ayasdi ($55M Series C in 2015).
The year 2014 saw the highest number of deals and investments in AI, with $394M across 60 deals.
Three AI-focused companies have already raised funds in 2016, with Ontario-based Maluuba, which was previously seed funded by Samsung Ventures, raising a $6.2M Series A from other investors. The other two are United Kingdom’s Seldon, and US-based Kitt.ai.
After deals dropped by more than 35% from Q3’14 to Q3’15, activity rose rapidly once more and reached an all-time quarterly high of 19 deals in Q4’15. In that quarter, H2O.ai raised the largest round — a $20M in Series B — followed by RapidMiner’s $16M Series C.
Q4’14 had an all-time quarterly funding high of $201M, more than half of which was from Sentient Technologies’ Series C round.
The peak in funding in Q1’14 was driven by the $40M Series B round raised by Vicarious Systems. Q1’15 saw $121M raised from 12 deals to companies including Ayasdi, RapidMiner, and Viv Labs.
Deal share by stage
A wide majority of deals to artificial intelligence companies from 2010 to 2015 involved early-stage startups, with seed deals dominating, accounting for 50% of overall activity in 2015, while Series A took 19% of deals that year. Over 60 AI companies received seed/angel funding during these six years.
Mid-stage deals have begun to take more deal share recently, with Series B and Series C deals combining for a 20% share in both 2013 and 2014, but a 26% share in 2015. Series C deals climbed from a 7% share to a 15% share from 2014 to 2015.
Dollar share by stage
Dollar share in AI funding has swung from early-stage to mid-stage investments.
The lion’s share of investments – 93% — went to early-stage startups in 2012, consistent with the peak in early-stage deal share that year. Fifteen startups on our list raised seed/angel or Series A rounds that year, with the largest being Vicarious Systems’ $15M Series A.
From 2013 to 2015, over 50% of dollars went to startups raising Series B or C rounds, including Sentient Technologies, Ayasdi, Vicarious Systems, Digital Reasoning Systems, Nervana Systems, and H2O.ai. Mid-stage (Series B and C) dollar share peaked at 66% in 2015.
Most well-funded companies
Sentient Technologies, which recently launched an online AI sales associate, Visual Filter, with SHOES.COM, is the most well-funded AI startup on the list.
It is followed by California-based Ayasdi, backed by investors including Khosla Ventures, Citi Ventures and GE Ventures.
The top 10 companies on the list below are developing products ranging from the next generation of AI assistants to advanced machine-learning tools.
|Rank||Company||Total Funding ($M)|
|8||Digital Reasoning Systems||$36|
Most active investors
The top spot went to California-based VC fund, Data Collective. The firm has backed AI startups including Vicarious Systems, Scaled Inference, SigOpt, and New Mexico-based Descartes Labs.
Bloomberg Beta, which launched in 2013, was tied for second spot with Khosla Ventures. The former’s investments include Diffbot and Context Relevant, while the latter invested in startups including Atomwise, MetaMind, and Scaled Inference.
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