Microsoft Ventures debuts $3.5 million search for startups shaping the future of AI

Innovate.AI: a global startup competition

Today, artificial intelligence (AI) is being leveraged to do incredible things, from breaking down cultural barriers with smart translators, to helping doctors and biochemists better understand, prevent and treat the world’s deadliest and most confounding diseases. Technology is bridging the gap from imagination to reality faster than ever before, but we have only scratched the surface of what AI can help us accomplish.

At Microsoft, we believe AI has the power to transform our world. By building and leveraging powerful platforms like Microsoft Cognitive Services, we can amplify human ingenuity in ways we never could have imagined: changing how we work, play and live. Our approach to AI isn’t just limited to our products, but also how we participate in the broader community.

Since launching Microsoft Ventures last year, we’ve invested in more than 40 remarkable startups including AI innovators like Agolo, Bonsai, Crowdflower and Livongo. We also formed an AI fund to support startups focused on inclusive growth and a positive impact on society. But we still want to do more. So today, we’re announcing Microsoft Ventures’ next step in helping to drive progress in AI and continuing Microsoft’s commitment to making AI accessible for all: Innovate.AI, a global startup competition.

Through this global competition, we are asking startups creating or leveraging transformative AI technologies to apply for a chance to win $1 million from Microsoft Ventures and participating venture capital (VC) partners and $500,000 in Azure credits. In addition, one standout finalist will be awarded $500,000 in venture funding and $500,000 in Azure credits from Microsoft Ventures as part of the AI for Good Prize, which acknowledges their use of AI to better society.  The winners will extend across three regions – North America, Europe and Israel – for a total of four winners and a combined $3.5 million in investment funding. In North America, we are working with Madrona Venture Group; in Europe, Notion Capital; and in Israel, Vertex Ventures Israel.

Up to 10 finalists from each region will participate in a live pitch-off in the spring where their ideas will be evaluated by a panel of experts from Microsoft Ventures and our VC partners. Only one of the 10 finalists per region will be awarded the $1 million prize.

Submissions are open now until the end of the calendar year (Dec. 31, 2017) on the Microsoft Ventures website. Companies working to advance the future of AI and share Microsoft’s mission of making AI more accessible and valuable to everyone are encouraged to apply.

I’m looking forward to what (and who!) we find. Bring us your best!

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