Salesforce announced that its venture wing is launching a $50 million fund to invest in start-ups employing artificial intelligence.
Reuters reported that Salesforce, whose software helps businesses sell, market and track customer activity, has increased its spending on research and development due to increasing competition from companies such as Oracle Group and Microsoft Corp.
In addition, the company has been boosting its use of AI since launching its Commerce Cloud Einstein technology a year ago, which uses automation and data-driven features. Einstein’s intelligence allows retailers to bring predictive and personalized commerce experiences to their consumer base, as well as connect customer demand with inventory supply by collecting and managing key order and inventory data across stores, warehouses and vendors.
Salesforce is certainly not alone in its focus on AI: For 2017, global financing for AI startups is projected to surpass $10.8 billion – nearly double the $5.6 billion spent in 2016.
“There’s a tremendous surge in companies who are providing unique AI innovations,” said John Somorjai, executive vice president of Salesforce Ventures. “We want more of those companies to do these innovations on Salesforce’s platform.”
Since its founding in 2009, Salesforce Ventures has deployed more than $700 million in funding. Past Salesforce investments include web storage company Box Inc., document-sharing startup DocuSign Inc. and communications software maker Twilio Inc., all of which have a space on Salesforce’s platform. Nearly 50 of the startups have been acquired and eight have held initial public offerings.
With its new fund, Salesforce is hoping to attract more developers to build AI apps that work in tandem with its products.
“What we’re doing with this fund is really doubling down on that commitment to bring more AI-centric solutions to our customers,” Somorjai said.