1 – Investing in the Future of Work – News from the Slack Fund
On Tuesday, Slack gave an updated peek into startups that it’s acquired since starting ‘The Slack Fund’ seven months ago. To date, the cloud-based messaging platform has invested in a total of 14 companies, giving $1.97 million of its own capital and raising over $30 million in venture-backed funds for its teams and partners. All of these companies utilize artificial intelligence in one form or another, and each contributes to the company’s development of products and operations, from natural language technology to more efficient human resources and sales services. Examples of Slack-funded companies include Automat (anyone can build a bot); Konsus (24/7 freelancing); and Wade and Wendy (twin intelligent recruiting assistants). In addition, the Slack platform now includes over 600 apps in its App directory, through which it claims “90 percent of paid teams” actively using these apps on a regular basis.
(Read the full article on the Slack Platform Blog)
2 – Google Cuts Its Giant Electricity Bill With DeepMind-Powered AI
Google is applying DeepMind technology to reducing energy use in its data centers, and in turn reaping big savings (or getting more for its return on investment). At a recent AI conference in New York, Demis Hassabis told Bloomberg that energy at its data centers (measured in PUE) has been cut by several percentage points, while emphasizing the benefits on the environment. According to a publicly-released Google statement, this translate to a 15 percent increase in energy efficiency. The company began DeepLearning to its data center in 2014, interested in how the system would predict changes in power usage over time and subsequently arrange the system components in a more efficient way. Hassabis claims this is only the beginning of Google’s energy-efficient efforts at its center using machine learning, and will continue to add more sensors that may contribute to additional efficiency gains (and saved expenses).
(Read the full article on BloombergTechnology)
3 – Civil Maps Closes Seed Funding Round Led by Ford, Motus Ventures
Civil Maps, a company that’s been pioneering 3D mapping technology for autonomous vehicles, just secured $6.6 million in a seed funding round, including investments from Motus Ventures and Ford Motor Company. The company’s mission is to equip autonomous vehicles with AI and vehicle-based local processing technology that allows it to drive “anywhere smoothly and safely”. According to the press release, the technology works by translating sensor data (including LiDAR) into readable map information installed specifically to guide fully autonomous vehicles. Sravan Puttagunta, CEO of Civil Maps stated:
“Civil Maps’ scalable map generation process enables fully autonomous vehicles to drive like humans do – identifying on-road and off-road features even when they might be missing, deteriorated or hidden from view and letting a car know what it can expect along its route.”
(Read the full article on BusinessWire)
4 – Can Artificial Intelligence Help You Find an Outfit? Macy’s is Giving it a Try
Macy’s is partnering with IBM Watson to pilot “Macy’s On Call”, an intelligent chatbot-based program that will answer customer questions as they shop in-store via their mobile devices. IBM Watson will learn over time and improve its ability to address questions at specific retail spots over time. Pilot locations include Bethesda, MD, where Macy’s is also trying out a Spanish-language function. While Macy’s is one of the first major retailers to incorporate IBM Watson, it follows in the footsteps of chains Target and Walmart in integrating mobile devices into the shopper’s experience, which includes scanning for discounts, navigating aisles, and mobile payment abilities. Macy’s app also integrates beacon technology, which has been added to all of its brick-and-mortar stores and automatically sends special offers to mobile users nearby who have signed up for these alerts.
(Read the full article on The Washington Post)
5 – Why this S.F.-based Business Messenger isn’t Scared of Facebook
Intercom, a messenger platform built specifically for businesses, is making serious headway in its expanding its services to companies like Home Depot, IBM, and several Bay area tech-based companies. Launched in 2011, the startup has grown its San Francisco-based headquarters to 300 employees (its engineering team is based in Dublin, Ireland) and raised a total of $116 million in venture capital (with the latest April 2016 funding round closing at $50 million). After its last venture round, Intercom can claim profitability from existing sales and stated that it will not be raising any more venture capital. Intercom’s product streamlines multiple digital channels (email, social media, other platforms) into one interface, allowing businesses to better communicate with consumers. In response to competition from tech giants like Facebook, CEO Eoghan McCabe said,
“The difference between them and us is that we are built primarily for businesses; that’s why we have workflow features for teams built in, for example.”
(Read the full article on the Silicon Valley Business Journal)
Image credit: Google