Seattle is poised to be an epicentre for machine learning and artificial intelligence.
That’s one takeaway from the inaugural Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence Summit hosted by Madrona Venture Group on Wednesday in downtown Seattle.

Thanks to Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and a wide range of startups, the Emerald City is already known as a hub for cloud computing technology development, with Madrona Managing Director Matt McIllwain calling Seattle the “cloud capital of the world” more than two years ago. There is also a long list of Silicon Valley tech companies who have established engineering outposts in the Seattle area, including Google, Facebook, Oracle, Apple, HP, Uber, Lyft, Twitter, Splunk, and many others.

But looking beyond the infrastructure and services side of cloud computing, there is also momentum building from both tech giants and small startups in Seattle that are developing technologies related to machine learning, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, algorithms, data analytics, and more.

The speaker list at Madrona’s event on Wednesday was a testament to that. Executives from local companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Algorithmia, Dato, Redfin, Spare5, ReplyYes, Textio, Context Relevant, Integris Software, VoiceBox, and KITT.AI all shared their expertise and insight with around 100 people in attendance. Other founders and entrepreneurs like AI2 CEO Oren Etzioni and Amperity CEO Kabir Shahani were in the crowd.

S. “Soma” Somasegar, a Microsoft veteran who joined Madrona six months ago as a venture partner, said on Wednesday that there is a “mass concentration of innovation” from big and small companies in Seattle focused on both cloud computing and newer industries like machine learning and AI.

“Given the pedigree of companies like Microsoft and Amazon, and the ecosystem that has spun up over last five to 10 years, there is a tremendous amount of talent we have here that focuses on solving hard technology problems,” he said.

“Our world view is that everybody who is building an application is going to be building an intelligent application moving forward,” Somasegar said.  “Simply put, you will either be building machine learning, or you will be consuming machine learning.”

Having met with nearly 100 startups during his first six months at Madrona, Somasegar said at least 90 percent are either thinking about building machine learning or artificial intelligence-related technology, or are thinking about how they can develop intelligent applications.

“90 percent are there; 10 percent will get there tomorrow,” he noted.


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