Qualcomm Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of the chipmaker, has plans to invest up to $100 million in artificial intelligence.
Specifically, Qualcomm says it will provide capital to startups building on-device AI, which is AI that runs on the end device, like a smartphone or vehicle, rather than in the cloud. Qualcomm investment director Albert Wang (pictured), who managed the first investment out of the fund, says on-device AI is the future.
“Today’s AI processing is very computationally intensive,” Wang told TechCrunch. “When you’re talking to Alexa, nothing is processed on your device, it gets taken to the cloud and gets scrunched there. There are a few problems with that — performance deteriorates, it consumes a lot of bandwidth and there are privacy issues. Imagine you have an Alexa that is more private and user-friendly, you ask the questions and can get the answers instantly. It doesn’t take the round trip all the way to the cloud.”
Qualcomm has previously made AI investments out of its evergreen venture fund, including in SenseTime, a Chinese AI facial recognition company, and GM-acquired Cruise, which is building AI-enabled autonomous driving technology. The AI fund’s debut investment was in AnyVision, an AI startup based in Tel Aviv working on face, body and object recognition technology. Qualcomm participated in the company’s $28 million Series A funding round, which was led by Bosch in July.
The corporate VC typically hands out cash to 12 to 15 startups per year. As for the AI fund, it’s not sure just how many companies it will back, but says its investments will range between $1 million and $10 million per deal.
Qualcomm doesn’t typically set aside capital for specialized funds, opting instead to rally behind its evergreen flagship vehicle. The firm did, however, launch a digital healthcare fund, which deployed capital to Fitbit, among others, years ago. As for AI, Wang says they bring a pretty unique set of resources to the table.
“Qualcomm is very big on the mobile platform and it’s gaining ground in the IoT space, so there are a lot of tech partnerships we can provide, a lot of market insight we can provide from both the hardware and software perspective, and just given our exposure, in general, we have a pretty big portfolio of companies.”