Salesforce acquires MetaMind

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MetaMind, a Palo Alto-based AI startup founded in July 2014, is being acquired by Salesforce.

According to a new post published at the company’s website by CEO Richard Socher — a Stanford PhD who studied machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing and computer vision — Salesforce plans to use its technology to “further automate and personalize customer support, marketing automation, and many other business processes. [MetaMind will] extend Salesforce’s data science capabilities by embedding deep learning within the Salesforce platform.”

Salesforce confirmed the deal but isn’t disclosing financial details of the transaction or commenting on whether MetaMind’s entire team will join its ranks.

As a standalone company, MetaMind’s general-purpose platform was designed to predict outcomes for language, vision and database tasks.

As of the middle of last year, its technology could reportedly answer everything from specific queries about snippets of text to the sentiment of that text. Yoshua Bengio, a computer science professor at the University of Montreal, last June told Wired of MetaMind’s architecture, it’s “interesting in that it is aiming at something potentially very ambitious, trying to sequentially parse a large amount of facts . . . in such a way, via a learned semantic representation, that one can answer questions about them.”

Reportedly, MetaMind later broadened its focus on natural language processing to include more image analysis, too, which Socher knows well. Back in 2009, while still at Stanford, he helped create ImageNet, an image database that AI researchers still use to compare their image-recognition software in an annual online competition. (Last year it was won by a group of researchers at the Microsoft Research laboratory in Beijing.)

MetaMind had both paid and unpaid users. For unpaid web users, MetaMind’s products will be discontinued on May 4, according to Socher’s post. For its monthly recurring users, MetaMind’s products will be discontinued on June 4. The company says it will delete any data it has stored for unpaid web users and monthly recurring users after April 11.

MetaMind had raised $8 million from investors, according to CrunchBase. Its backers include Khosla Ventures and (notably) Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.