Innovate.AI is a global search for startups shaping the future of AI, with a $1 million prize

Microsoft Ventures has revealed a global competition called Innovate.AI, which is aimed at uncovering emerging startups working to progress the future of artificial intelligence.

In collaboration with Madrona Venture Group, Notion Capital and Vertex Ventures Israel, the competition will see Microsoft Ventures and its partners award $3.5 million dollars in venture funding, along with $2 million in Azure credits.

Kicking off today, startups harnessing AI for intelligent apps, services or platforms are encouraged to submit entries via the Microsoft Ventures website to compete for a chance at one of four prizes.

One million dollars in venture funding and $500,000 in Azure credits will be awarded to one startup per region – North America, Europe and Israel – with a fourth prize for the applicant that best leverages AI to better society. Dubbed the “AI for Good” category, this additional prize consists of $500,000 in funding from Microsoft Ventures and another $500,000 in Azure credits.

“At Microsoft, the future is rooted in the advancement of AI technologies,” said Nagraj Kashyap, corporate vice president, global head of Microsoft Ventures. “We’re excited to launch this competition with a strong group of venture capitalists who recognize the importance of leveraging these technologies to amplify human ingenuity and power innovation in AI forward.”

AI for good
Making AI more accessible and valuable to everyone all over the world is one of Microsoft’s core principles. By focusing on companies that are moving the needle on AI, Microsoft Ventures is helping bring to life AI’s transformative potential – maximizing efficiency, keeping us secure and helping to solve some of society’s biggest challenges.

In Europe, you’ll find some of the world’s most advanced AI research teams. Chrysanthos Chrysanthou, Parner, Notion Capital, states that “There’s a lot of talent in Europe. We’re based in the UK which, in our opinion, is the motherland of Europe when it comes to machine learning research and AI talent.”

“We also have companies in Switzerland and in France, which are also great places for AI research. If you ask me, the UK, France and Switzerland are probably the top three destinations in Europe for AI talent and companies across the board using those technologies.”

Partnering with companies who share these same commitments is a big step forward in accelerating innovation in AI and spurring growth in the design and development of future intelligent applications.

“Startups are already able to create significant businesses based on AI at the platform and application levels,” said S. Somasegar, managing director, Madrona Venture Group. “Now that they are leveraging emerging AI platforms, opportunities are increasing to create not only a great business, but one that has a strong and positive impact on society. As partners with our companies we work every day to foster the kind of innovation that will change lives and we are excited to work with Microsoft Ventures to identify passionate founders and teams that will build the next generation of intelligent applications.”

Submissions for the competition will be accepted from 10 October to 31 across three regions: Europe,  Israel and North America (Canada, Mexico and U.S.). Companies will be eligible to apply if they have raised less than $4 million in combined equity funding and/or loans on the day of application, and must introduce a product, service or platform which utilizes or intends to utilize AI techniques, as defined by relevant scientific research.

“Businesses have always had to fight for their lives in a competitive environment, but in today’s world, the pressures are greater than ever. AI is impacting every industry at extraordinary speed,” Chrysanthou, continues. “Through this partnership with Microsoft Ventures, we are excited to meet entrepreneurs who are harnessing AI to redefine entire industries on a massive scale.”

Up to ten finalists will qualify from each region for a chance to pitch their innovation in person as each vie for a chance to win their region’s $1 million+ prize. Winning startups may also benefit from competition exposure and potential future funding from regional VC partners. Full guidelines and contest information can be found on the Microsoft Ventures application page.

For more information, please visit the Official Microsoft Blog post.