AI2: This Incubator Is Helping Develop AI-First Tech Startups

By Noah Long ● February 10, 2020
  • AI2 Incubator is a Seattle-based accelerator for startups that have an AI-first strategy, which recently raised $10 million in funding

AI2 Incubator is a Seattle-based accelerator for startups that have an AI-first strategy. Recently, the AI2 Incubator announced it raised $10 million from renowned venture capital institutions like Madrona Venture Group, Sequoia, Kleiner Perkins, and Two Sigma Ventures along with a number of entrepreneurs and executives.

The AI2 Incubator — which was created by the Allen Institute for AI (AI2) — is helping engineers and entrepreneurs build their AI-first products with access to over 100 of the world’s best scientific and engineering talent in the field of AI. Every year, the AI2 Incubator invites engineers and entrepreneurs to join on a rolling basis while helping them come up with ideas, find co-founders, engage pilot customers, define their product, incorporate the latest A.I. techniques into their technology, and raise venture capital funding.

The AI2 Incubator attracts world-class talent from both inside and outside AI2, said Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute for AI. Our new partnership with world-class investors takes the incubator to a whole new level.

So far, AI2 Incubator companies include XNOR.ai (acquired by Apple), KITT.ai (acquired by Baidu), Lexion.ai, WellSaidLabs, and Blue Canoe. And others have already raised over $32.5 million at strong valuations.

Madrona has been investing in machine learning and AI companies over the past decade. Seattle is a clear leader for AI innovation at emerging companies like Amperity, Algorithmia and OctoML and established companies like Microsoft and Amazon. AI2 has been a great partner over the years and we believe this investment vehicle will help launch many more AI companies in the coming years, added Matt McIlwain, managing director at Madrona Venture Group.

Madrona worked with AI2 from the earliest days and has funded and helped build XNOR.ai, Lexion, and Kitt.ai out of the institute.

The AI2 Incubator is open to high potential founders from a wide variety of backgrounds. And this includes serial entrepreneurs, technical leaders who built teams and shipped products, and PhD’s with an interest in entrepreneurship.

“We’re tremendously excited about the era of data and AI-driven technological advancement that we are in,” stated Colin Beirne, Partner at Two Sigma Ventures. “Virtually every industry will be impacted by this relatively new core piece of technology. AI2 is a nexus of visionary thinkers in a city with world-class engineering and data science capability, and we’re incredibly enthusiastic to work with them.”

Regardless of their background, the incubator helps founders identify opportunities and pursue them with products that have a true technical edge.

The AI2 Incubator has a proven track record of launching smart, innovative companies due to the incredible resources available to entrepreneurs at the Allen Institute for AI, explained Mike Vernal, partner at Sequoia Capital. Going forward, many of the most successful new products will be underpinned by artificial intelligence and machine learning, making the AI2 Incubator a uniquely valuable partner for ambitious founders.

The new fund will bring additional resources to support the incubator’s efforts and includes investors with decades of experience helping launch companies that make an impact on the world.

“AI2 Incubator is uniquely-situated geographically and technologically, to develop promising AI-startups,” stated Wen H. Hsieh, Ph.D., partner at Kleiner Perkins. “Research-driven AI projects that solve very specific real-life problems are already making an impact in business and science. As an R&D-centric institution, AI2 gives us confidence that the AI startups they incubate will be built on cutting-edge technology.”