Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search

 

UniServices on board for latest Soul Machines funding round


By Paul McBeth

Oct. 29 (BusinessDesk) - Auckland University's UniServices has joined Mercedes-Benz in the latest Soul Machines fund-raising round, injecting US$2 million into the local artificial intelligence firm.

Soul Machines' chief business officer Greg Cross said the AI research firm was seeking to raise about US$20 million in the latest round, with Mercedes-Benz chipping in US$7 million through a convertible note on Oct. 1. UniServices, an initial shareholder in the firm, invested as part of a wider US$8 million offer. Soul Machines raised another US$5 million in June from two existing investors.

The AI research firm had 12 staff when it was spun out of Auckland University in 2016 and has since grown to 87. It has sales offices in Melbourne, San Francisco, New York and London, and Cross said it will be opening an office in Asia in the next month. The majority of its research team is Auckland-based, although other specialists are scattered around the world, he said.

UniServices made the investment using the university's Auckland Inventors Fund, which is typically an early investor in start-ups spun out of the university.

"Soul Machines is exactly the kind of company that the Inventors Fund is designed to support," UniServices chief executive Andy Shenk said in a statement. "It has world-leading, deeply transformative IP, with a long-term vision that will require patient capital to, potentially, deliver superior returns in the long run."

Speaking before today's UniServices announcement, Cross told BusinessDesk the Mercedes-Benz investment was part of a wider fund-raising round and a "huge endorsement" of the artificial intelligence business.

"Our objective is to solve problems, deliver solutions, and build scalable markets. We have a very strong focus on that," he said. "The industries we tend to focus on are the ones that understand the huge amount of change coming at them."

Soul Machines differs from other AI research companies in that it has developed cognitive models to simulate human thought processes exemplified by its emotionally responsive digital avatars. That differs from deep learning AI, where a network of processes are built to replicate a brain in the way it analyses data.

Cross said he believes cognitive models are going to be a central element of the wider AI standard. Because the technology gets smarter the more it's used, Soul Machines expects its value will track that trend, with Cross pointing to DeepMind and Siri as examples.

"We have no question in our minds that we have that potential to be valued as some of those $1 billion-plus companies," he said.

(BusinessDesk)

ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Stats NZ: Election Boosts October Job Numbers

Job numbers were boosted by general election staff in October 2020, along with rises in the manufacturing, retail, and hospitality industries, Stats NZ said today. Filled jobs rose by 27,667 to 2.2 million in October 2020 compared with September, after ... More>>

Government: New Year Border Exception For Seasonal Workers In The Horticulture And Wine Industries

2000 additional RSE workers to enter New Zealand early next year employers must pay these workers at least $22.10 an hour employers will cover costs of managed isolation for the RSE workers RSE workers will be paid the equivalent of 30 hours work a week ... More>>

ALSO:

Grey Power: Is Disappointed To Learn Of More Bank Closures

Many older people are being left without essential services because of cost cutting and the march of modern technology. It is now expected that most banking transactions can occur via the internet or telephone. Jan Pentecost, President of the Grey Power ... More>>

ALSO:


Department Of Conservation: Big Year Underway At Albatross Colony

Familiar faces are returning for the new season of Royal Cam, with a big breeding year underway for the toroa/northern royal albatross colony on Otago’s windswept Pukekura/Taiaroa Head. More than 120 albatrosses, a taonga species, have returned ... More>>

Real Estate: ASB Survey Reveals Majority Of Kiwis Expect House Prices To Keep Climbing

ALSO:

House price expectations are soaring as New Zealand’s housing market shifts up a gear. But stretched affordability is putting a dent in perceptions of whether it’s a good time to buy. While Kiwis reveal they do expect interest rates to fall further. ... More>>

ComCom: How Real Is That Bargain?

The Commerce Commission urges retailers and consumers to think hard about the bargains being offered as ‘Black Friday’ and Christmas draw near. Black Friday has now overtaken Boxing Day in terms of retail spending, according to data from electronic ... More>>

Stats NZ: Births And Deaths: Year Ended September 2020

Births and deaths releases provide statistics on the number of births and deaths registered in New Zealand, and selected fertility and mortality rates. Key facts For the year ended September 2020: 57,753 live births and 32,670 deaths ... More>>

ALSO: