Salesforce Launches $50 Million Fund for AI Startups

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Salesforce announced a new $50 million venture fund for startups to innovate with AI technology.  The goal is to encourage AI startups to develop artificial intelligence solutions that work together with the Salesforce platform. The Salesforce AI Innovation Fund, part of Salesforce Ventures, has already made investments in three AI startups.

Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) is placing big emphasis on AI and machine intelligence. One year ago the company launched Einstein, Salesforce’s artificial intelligence engine. Einstein provides predictive sales forecasting, and uses machine intelligence to score sales opportunities and gain insights from emails.

As Tony Rodoni, Executive Vice President for SMB sales at Salesforce, told us in an interview at Small Business Trends back in July, small businesses need AI.  “… AI is a necessity to growth. Behind every deal, every order and every opportunity is a customer. AI marries human interaction and machine intelligence in a way that enables companies to better connect with their customers.”

Industry analyst Brent Leary, partner with CRM Essentials, echoes the importance of AI. “Just like social media became an integral part of CRM, AI and CRM will become inseparable in due time. A huge amount of data is being created from every interaction between people, apps and devices, and the frequency of those interactions is growing exponentially. It will take AI technologies to automate the discovery and transmission of relevant insights needed to create the kind of experiences customers and prospects will gravitate towards as their needs change over time.”

“Artificial intelligence has the potential to make every company and employee smarter, faster, more efficient and more productive,” said John Somorjai, EVP at Salesforce Ventures.

Highspot is one of the first three companies receiving funding from the Salesforce AI Innovation Fund. Highspot’s sales enablement platform connects sales teams to relevant content for each situation. The Highspot website says it uses machine learning to “surface the most relevant and effective content for each sales opportunity and provide advanced analytics to optimize your sales cycle.”

Squirro is a Zurich-based startup that also received funding.  Squirro takes incomplete or inaccessible sales information and applies AI insights to it.  In doing so, it says it helps identify new sales opportunities and reduce data research time.

TalkIQ is a real-time voice analytics startup that also received funding. Instead of call shadowing your team, the company’s “proprietary AI technology can predict the outcomes of your calls and guide you towards achieving better sales, reduced churn, and higher customer satisfaction,” according to its website.

Salesforce Ventures also made an investment in All Turtles, an AI startup studio that partners together with startups developing artificial intelligence solutions.  Phil Libin, the CEO of All Turtles observes we’ve entered the era of AI innovation. He writes, “Once every decade or so, the tech world goes through a season of frantic reinvention when novel platforms enter the mainstream, placing previously intractable problems within reach. I started companies in each of the last three of these periods: the rise of the desktop internet in the mid-’90s, the big data movement at the turn of the century, and the explosion of mobile apps in 2008. Another reinvention, caused by the rapid advancement of practical AI, is happening right now.”

AI Image: Shutterstock

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Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.