Part 2 of a series about machine learning in Israel, originally posted on VC Cafe.
Machine Intelligence (AI, ML and Deep Learning) requires a certain calibre of computer science talent. Today, this kind of talent is at the “top of the stack” of computer science. These cutting-edge capabilities used to be found at universities, and work on publicly-funded blue sky research; today, companies have the talent, and use it for private, applied purposes. The Economist touched on this in “Million Dollar Babies”:
In the past universities employed the world’s best AI experts. Now tech firms are plundering departments of robotics and machine learning (where computers learn from data themselves) for the highest-flying faculty and students, luring them with big salaries similar to those fetched by professional athletes.
That race for talent, is catalysing acquisitions by corporates interested in adding AI to their products and services. As an example, Ex-Googler Sebastian Thurn estimated that the going rate for self-driving engineering talent is $10 million per person.
Building Machine Intelligence Clusters
Outside of the US, Europe is the largest hub, with approximately 630 machine intelligence startups, followed by Asia with approximately 300 (according to Crunchbase data). Europe hopes to dominate Machine Intelligence by attracting “Technology Refugees” affected by recently imposed immigration restrictions in the US (source: FT).
Within Europe the UK is in the lead. As of December 2016, the UK was home to 226 machine intelligence startups. DeepMind is headquartered in London and it continues to grow with a fresh partnership with the NHS and new office in San Francisco. The UK also has a strong pool of talent in Oxford, Cambridge and London’s universities nearby. Between January 2014 and mid-October 2016, 111 AI-related companies in the U.K. raised $342 million in venture capital.
France ranks #2 in Europe with 180 startups and counting. The French Machine Intelligence cluster is on the rise (see Economist’s “Less-Miserable”) with the opening of its Facebook AI Research centre in Paris and a growing number of French AI and ML startups. Notable startups include Snips, LightOn and Tinyclues and success stories include the acquisition of Moodstocks by Google.
Germany ranks #3 in Europe, with approximately 80 Machine Intelligence startups, about half of them concentrated in Berlin.
Montreal in Canada is quickly forming cluster of AI companies, with the acquisition of Maluuba by Microsoft and Google’s Montreal institute for Learning Algorithms, the Institute of Data Valorization (IVADO) and others. Large multi nationals including Thomson Reuters and General Motors, recently moved their AI divisions to Toronto, including with the intention of hiring hundreds of data scientists.
Israel is naturally well-positioned to be a prominent player in the Machine Intelligence field. The graduates of the IDF’s 8200 unit, Israel’s computer-science focused NSA equivalent, are turning their attention to Machine Intelligence, applying it as a layer in a variety of fields: cybersecurity, computer vision, voice recognition, business intelligence, IOT, and others.
In my next post, I’ll dive deeper into the Machine Intelligence cluster in Israel, with 30 additional startups to watch in this space.