Around 47% 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 250 private companies using AI algorithms across different verticals have been acquired since 2012, with 37 acquisitions taking place in Q1’17 alone. That quarter also saw one of the largest M&A deals: Ford’s acquisition of Argo AI for $1B. Baidu has been particularly aggressive in its AI acquisitions in 2017, with 3 M&A deals so far this year, including its acquisition of Amazon Alexa Fund-backed Kitt.ai this quarter.
Google is the most active acquirer of AI startups, with 12 acquisitions under its belt since 2012. 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 Q3’17, Google acquired India-based Halli Labs.
Apple has been ramping up its M&A activity, and ranked second with a total of 8 acquisitions. It recently acquired California-based Lattice Data for $200M and Tel Aviv-based RealFace, valued at $2M. (The table below excludes computer vision-based AR/VR startups like SensoMotoric Instruments, which Apple acquired in Q2’17.)
Intel, Microsoft, and Facebook are tied for third place. Intel acquired 3 startups in 2016 alone: Itseez, Nervana 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.
Salesforce and Twitter have acquired 4 AI startups each. Twitter’s most recent M&A deal was 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.)
|Wrapidity||United Kingdom||2/21/2017||Meltwater Group|
|Argo AI||United States||2/10/2017||Ford Motor Company|
|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|
|SAIPS||Israel||8/16/2016||Ford Motor Company|
|Nervana Systems||United States||8/9/2016||Intel|
|Magic Pony||United Kingdom||6/20/2016|
|Encore Alert||United States||3/29/2016||Meltwater Group|
|Nexidia||United States||1/11/2016||NICE Systems|
|Saffron Technology||United States||10/26/2015||Intel|
|Vocal IQ||United Kingdom||10/2/2015||Apple|
|Sociocast Networks||United States||6/9/2015||AOL|
|Tempo AI||United States||5/29/2015||Salesforce|
|Granata Decision Systems||Canada||1/23/2015|
|Vision Factory||United Kingdom||10/23/2014||Google DeepMind|
|Dark Blue Labs||United Kingdom||10/23/2014||Google DeepMind|
|Medio Systems||United States||6/12/2014||Nokia|
|Novauris Technolgies||United Kingdom||4/3/2014||Apple|
|The Echo Nest||United States||3/6/2014||Spotify|
|DeepMind Technologies||United Kingdom||1/27/2014|
|IQ Engines||United States||8/25/2013||Yahoo|
|Mobile Technologies||United States||8/13/2013|
|Causata||United States||8/7/2013||NICE Systems|
We updated this timeline on 7/21/17 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.