Microsoft Launches $3.5M Competition For AI Startups

by Ciarán Daly
Article ImageIn partnership with Madrona Venture Group, Notion Capital, and Vertex Ventures Israel, Microsoft Ventures have announced a new competition offering innovative AI startups the chance to win $3.5M in venture funding and $2M in Azure credits: Innovate.AI.

The competition will award prizes to three AI startups from three regions around the world: North America, Europe, and Israel. Each winner will receive a $1,000,000 USD investment split between Microsoft Ventures and their partners; $500,000 USD in Azure credits for 3 years; 100 Office 365 licenses for 1 year; and an Azure support plan.

Applicants also have the opportunity to win the separate AI For Good prize. Awarded to the top global finalist, the prize is awarded based on AI work that responsibly harnesses AI to positive ends, impacting people's lives and the world. "Examples include: increasing access to education, teaching new skills and creating jobs, enhancing the capabilities of existing workforces, and improving the treatment of diseases," the competition website explains.

From today, Microsoft are encouraging startups that are harnessing AI for intelligent apps, services, and platforms to submit entries on the Microsoft Ventures site. Applicants are eligible based on three key criteria and a set of official rules. They must have raised less than $4,000,000 USD; they must be headquartered in North America, Europe, or Israel; and they must offer or intend to offer a product, service, or platform which utilizes AI or machine learning techniques. Applicants have a deadline of December 31, 2017.

A group of judges from Microsoft Ventures and the partner VC firms in each region will each vote on the top 10 entries in reach region based on the following criteria:

  • Problem addressed
  • Market size and growth potential
  • Differentiated/disruptive solution
  • Performance and traction with customers
  • Ability of founding team to execute

With Microsoft looking to heavily expand their AI services and output through the founding of divisions such as Microsoft AI and Research, the Innovate.AI competition appears to be just one way the firm are attempting to encourage start-ups to get onboard with their solutions.


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