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Grab Accelerates AI Expansion With $150M

Grab is planning to earmark $150 million for additional research into artificial intelligence (AI), Bloomberg reported on Thursday (Sept. 5). 

Over the next year, the Southeast Asian ride-hailing startup will advance its developing business, which now offers food delivery, digital payments and digital content.

Grab wants to be Southeast Asia’s all-in-one super app, toppling competitor Gojek. This new infusion of cash is on top of an earlier $100 million technology investment, Grab co-founder Tan Hooi Ling told Bloomberg. This new AI blueprint will enhance security as well as natural language processing (NLP) tech.

“We want to go from AI-powered to AI everywhere,” Tan said in an interview at the Sooner Than You Think tech conference in Singapore.

Tan predicts that technology companies will create “great platforms that are very localized to the problem they’re trying to solve,” and in Grab’s particular sphere, “localized languages in Southeast Asia are very underserved.” 

Grab is collaborating with Microsoft for improved NLP that’s customized to users in different markets.

The expansion of 5G networks will be a catalyst for complex AI applications and futuristic technologies. Tan said Grab is concentrating on its customers’ most immediate needs. “We won’t just build AI for the sake of AI,” she said.

In its latest funding round, Grab raised more than $4.5 billion led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund and Tencent Holdings Ltd.

The startup is planning to raise $6.5 billion of total capital this year. SoftBank is a big investor in Grab, but the relationship goes beyond investing money, Tan has said previously. Grab also collaborates with SoftBank, which is helping with its expansion efforts.

“[Funding] will help us grow very aggressively this year across our verticals — transport, mobility, food, and payments,” Tan said in April.

The company has been in expansion mode in Indonesia, aggressively investing money to lure customers away from rival Gojek.

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