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Innovate.AI Global Startup Competition Gears Up

October 12, 2017

Microsoft Ventures, in collaboration with Madrona Venture Group, Notion Capital and Vertex Ventures Israel, has started a global competition, Innovate.AI, aimed at uncovering emerging startups working to progress the future of artificial intelligence. In total, Microsoft Ventures and its partners will award $3.5M in venture funding and $2M in Azure credits.

Beginning today, startups harnessing AI for intelligent apps, services or platforms are encouraged to submit entries via the Microsoft Ventures website to compete for a chance at one of four prizes. One million dollars in venture funding and $500K in Azure credits will be awarded to one startup per region — North America, Europe and Israel — with a fourth prize for the applicant that best leverages AI to better society. The AI for Good prize consists of $500K in funding from Microsoft Ventures and $500K in Azure credits.

“At Microsoft, the future is rooted in the advancement of AI technologies,” said Nagraj Kashyap, corporate vice president, global head of Microsoft Ventures. “We’re excited to launch this competition with a strong group of venture capitalists that recognizes the importance of leveraging these technologies to amplify human ingenuity and power innovation in AI forward.”

Making AI more accessible and valuable to everyone all over the world is one of Microsoft’s core principles. By focusing on companies that are moving the needle on AI, Microsoft Ventures is helping bring to life AI’s transformative potential — maximizing efficiency, keeping us secure and helping to solve some of society’s biggest challenges. Partnering with companies that share these same commitments is a big step forward in accelerating innovation in AI and spurring growth in the design and development of future intelligent applications.

“Startups are already able to create significant businesses based on AI at the platform and application levels,” said S. Somasegar, managing director, Madrona Venture Group. “Now that they are leveraging emerging AI platforms, opportunities are increasing to create not only a great business, but one that has a strong and positive impact on society. As partners with our companies, we work every day to foster the kind of innovation that will change lives, and we are excited to work with Microsoft Ventures to identify passionate founders and teams that will build the next generation of intelligent applications.”

Submissions will be accepted from Oct. 10 to Dec. 31, 2017, and open across three regions: Europe (EU), Israel, and North America (Canada, Mexico and U.S.). Companies will be eligible to apply if they have raised less than $4M in combined equity funding and/or loans at day of application, and must introduce a product, service or platform that utilizes or intends to utilize AI techniques, as defined by relevant scientific research.

“Businesses have always had to fight for their lives in a competitive environment, but in today’s world, the pressures are greater than ever. AI is impacting every industry at extraordinary speed,” said Chrysanthos Chrysanthou, partner at Notion Capital. “Through this partnership with Microsoft Ventures, we are excited to meet entrepreneurs who are harnessing AI to redefine entire industries on a massive scale.”

Up to 10 finalists will qualify from each region for a chance to pitch their innovation in person as each vies for a chance to win their region’s $1M-plus prize. Winning startups may also benefit from competition exposure and potential future funding from regional VC partners. Full guidelines and contest information can be found on the Microsoft Ventures application page.

“We believe that AI has the power to transform and disrupt every aspect of our life,” said Emanuel Timor, general partner with Vertex Ventures Israel. “We see great opportunities for entrepreneurs to create new products, provide unique AI innovations and become market leaders. Vertex Ventures Israel looks forward to working together with Microsoft Ventures in supporting the AI ecosystem and the exceptionally talented teams in Israel and abroad.”

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