The AI market is growing, but how quickly is tough to pin down

TechCrunch | 1/20/2019 | Staff
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Holden Page is an editor and journalist at Crunchbase News.

If you work in tech, you’ve heard about artificial intelligence: how it’s going to replace us, whether it’s over-hyped or not and which nations will leverage it to prevent, or instigate, war.

Editorial - Bent - Money - Startups - Money

Our editorial bent is more clear-cut: How much money is going into startups? Who is putting that money in? And what trends can we suss out about the health of the market over time?

So let’s talk about the state of AI startups and how much capital is being raised. Here’s what I can tell you: funding totals for AI startups are growing year-over-year; I just don’t know precisely how quickly. Regardless, startups are certainly raising massive sums of money off the buzzword.

Point - Rounds - Crunchbase

To make that point, here are just a few of the biggest rounds announced and recorded by Crunchbase in 2018:

SenseTime, a China-based startup that is quite good at tracking your face wherever it may be, raised a $1 billion Series D round. It was the largest round of the year in the AI category, according to Crunchbase. But what’s more mind-blowing is that the company raised a total of $2.2 billion in just one year across three rounds. A picture is worth a thousand words, but a face is worth billions of dollars.

Robotics - Startup - Robotics - Series - C

UBTech Robotics, another China-based startup focusing on robotics, raised an $820 million Series C. Just a cursory look at its website, however, makes UBTech appear to be a high-end toy maker rather than an AI innovator.

And biotech startup Zymergen, which “manufactures microbes for Fortune 500 companies,” according to Crunchbase, raised a $400 million Series C.

Part - Chart - Words - Copy - AI

Now, this is the part I normally include a chart and 400 words of copy to contextualize the AI market. But if you read the above descriptions closely, you’ll see our problem: What...
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