Qualcomm Ventures is dedicating $100M to AI investments

Qualcomm Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of the chipmaker, has plans to invest up to $100 million in artificial intelligence.

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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. The fund’;s leader, Qualcomm investment director Albert Wang (pictured), 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.”;

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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 $5 million and $15 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.”;