Around 46% of the AI companies acquired since 2012 have had VC backing.
Corporate giants like Google, IBM, Yahoo, Intel, Apple and Salesforce are competing in the race to acquire private AI companies, with Ford, Samsung, GE, and Uber emerging as new entrants. Over 200 private companies using AI algorithms across different verticals have been acquired since 2012, with over 30 acquisitions taking place in Q1’17 alone (as of 3/24/17). This quarter also saw one of the largest M&A deals: Ford’s acquisition of Argo AI for $1B.
In 2013, Google picked up deep learning and neural network startup DNNresearch from the computer science department at the University of Toronto. This acquisition reportedly helped Google make major upgrades to its image search feature. In 2014 Google acquired British company DeepMind Technologies for some $600M (Google’s DeepMind program recently beat a human world champion in the board game “Go”). Last year, it acquired visual search startup Moodstock, and bot platform Api.ai. More recently, in Q1’17, Google acquired predictive analytics platform Kaggle.
Apple has been ramping up its M&A activity, and ranked second with a total of 7 acquisitions. It recently acquired Tel Aviv-based RealFace, valued at $2M.
Intel, Microsoft, and Facebook are tied for third place. Intel acquired 3 startups in 2016 alone: Itseez, Nervana Systems, and Movidius, while Facebook acquired Belarus-based Masquerade Technologies and Switzerland-based Zurich Eye recently. Microsoft recently acquired Genee and conversational AI startup Maluuba.
Twitter is the next most-active acquirer, with 4 major acquisitions, the most recent being image-processing startup Magic Pony.
Salesforce, which joined the race in 2015 with the acquisition of Tempo AI, made two major acquisitions last year: Khosla Ventures-backed MetaMind and open-source machine-learning server PredictionIO. GE made 2 acquisitions in November 2016: AI-IoT startup Bit Stew Systems, and CRM-focused Wise.io.
The timeline below shows the M&A activity of corporations that have made 2 or more acquisitions since 2012. (Note: The exact dates for Apple’s Novauris and Amazon’s Orbeus acquisitions are not known. They are marked with a star to indicate approximate date of acquisition.)