January 31, 2018

The AI ‘greaseman’ strikes out on his own

Meet Andrew Ng: founder of Google Brain, former chief scientist at Baidu, and the go-to AI guy in Silicon Valley.

If there’s a large-scale AI undertaking in the works, it’s likely that Andrew Ng has had a hand in it.

To put it in Ocean’s Eleven terms, he’s the go-to “greaseman” for big tech companies looking to solve some of the biggest questions in AI. AKA, he can weasel his way around any deep learning obstacle out there.

Now, he’s doing his biggest “job” yet: he’s starting a $175m fund… for his own ideas.

And he did it without breaking a sweat

In Ng’s words, investors are so eager to get a piece of the AI action that “our fundraising process was very painless.”

(His track record as the chief scientist at Chinese internet giant Baidu, and creator of Google’s deep learning project, Google Brain, probably didn’t hurt, either…)

Now, Ng has big guns like NEA, Sequoia, Greylock, and (of course) SoftBank on board — all attracted by his promise that AI businesses are “more repeatable than people think,” and that he can build them faster than anyone.

To that end, the fund will operate more as an incubator for Ng’s projects, rather than an investing arm for outside startups.

Ng’s been grooming the talent — now he has the resources to recruit

Ng’s already launched Deeplearning.ai, an online curriculum of classes on things like “deep neural networks” to fill the shortage of AI engineers, which has made it notoriously difficult to get deep learning startups off the ground.

But, niche engineers don’t come cheap — and with this extra funding, he’ll actually be able to pay their $500k salaries.

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