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IBM earmarks $500 million to fund enterprise AI-focused startups

Technology giant IBM has reiterated its efforts to explore artificial intelligence (AI), launching a new fund to invest in AI firms focused on building enterprise applications.

The new $500 million fund, dubbed the IBM Enterprise AI Venture Fund, will focus its operations on firms developing AI solutions for businesses, according to the company. While the statement did not reveal further details, IBM says it will fund AI firms from “early-stage to hyper-growth startups.”

IBM’s new fund will place a premium on generative AI products for enterprises, citing the potential for workplace productivity and efficiency. Per the press release, IBM’s fund will leverage a “differentiated model and strategy” to identify investment opportunities in generative AI for enterprises.

Beyond strategy, IBM says its dedicated portfolio development team, comprised of investment and AI experts, will offer operational expertise and novel market strategies for fledgling startups.

“With the launch of the IBM Enterprise AI Venture Fund, we’re opening another channel to harness the enormous potential of the AI revolution into tangible, positive outcomes for IBM and the companies we invest in,” said IBM Chief Commercial Officer Rob Thomas. “This fund is yet another way we’re doubling down on our commitment to responsible AI innovation.”

The new fund follows IBM’s participation in the $235 million series D funding of the open-source AI platform Hugging Face, and a Series A funding round of Hidden Layer, a cybersecurity firm focusing on AI. IBM’s investments have seen both companies reach impressive milestones, including Hugging Face’s recent collaboration with NASA.

“We’ve been thrilled to collaborate with IBM in democratizing AI,” said Hugging Face CEO Clem Delangue. “With hundreds of open models on the Hugging Face hub, they are significantly boosting the open-source ecosystem. I am convinced that they’ll be able to accelerate their impact on AI with the IBM Enterprise AI Venture Fund.”

Internally, IBM has been working with generative AI and other emerging technologies, underscored by the launch of its watsonx models series, designed to streamline the integration of generative AI into existing business workflows. IBM disclosed plans in early 2023 to integrate Meta’s (NASDAQ: METALlama 2 into watsonx, hinting at the company’s ambitions to incorporate third-party AI tools with its proprietary offerings.

AI will change the future of work

Alongside its plans to invest in AI firms, IBM has been conducting surveys on the impact of generative AI on the future of work. In a 32-page report, IBM opines that up to 40% of the global workforce will require upskilling to compete favorably in the workplace, potentially affecting up to 1.4 billion persons.

The report added that despite the upskilling, the fear of massive job cuts is mainly unfounded, clarifying that generative AI will guarantee greater productivity across enterprises.

“As technology becomes more user-friendly, employees are also able to do more with less advanced technical skills,” said IBM. “Plus, as machines take over mundane tasks, people can spend more time on problem-solving and collaborative work that require stronger people skills.”

Watch: AI truly is not generative, it’s synthetic

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