Microsoft Ventures launches AI-focused fund

The VC arm of Microsoft wants to help people and machines work better together

Microsoft Ventures has launched an artificial intelligence investment fund, signaling its parent company's growing focus on the emerging technology.

The VC arm of Microsoft has also funded Element AI, an incubator to help organizations embrace an AI-first strategy, Nagraj Kashyap, corporate vice president of Microsoft Ventures, said Monday in a blog post.

"AI holds great promise to augment human capabilities and improve society by tackling some of the world’s biggest problems," Kashyap wrote. "We’ll make investments in startups that are responsibly harnessing the promise of AI to empower people and businesses."

The funded companies "will help people and machines work together to increase access to education, teach new skills and create jobs, enhance the capabilities of existing workforces and improve the treatment of diseases," Kashyap added.

Kashyap did not disclose the size of the new AI fund.

Since launching in May, Microsoft Ventures has invested in 19 companies, including Tact, a sales experience platform designed to transform a salesperson's connected device into an AI-powered smart assistant. Another investment was in i3 Equity Partners, an investment firm dedicated to early-stage investments in Israeli internet of things startups.

Microsoft has made AI a major company focus in recent months. In September, the company launched a new AI and Research Group, and it has made several improvements to its Cortana digital assistant.

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