Salesforce Einstein, the AI toolset for Salesforce.com, turned one today and to celebrate Salesforce Ventures announced a $50 million fund to encourage startups to build AI-fueled applications on top of Salesforce.
Over the years many successful companies have been built on top of Salesforce including FinancialForce.com, Apttus and Veeva. The purpose of this fund is to coax a new generation of companies to build their own applications while taking advantage of the intelligence that Einstein APIs can give them.
"The goal of the Salesforce AI Fund is to accelerate the development of transformative AI solutions on Salesforce," Matt Garratt, VP at Salesforce Ventures told TechCrunch. "There is an incredible opportunity for companies and entrepreneurs to create next-generation AI solutions and our goal is to fuel that opportunity," he added.
The company is already seeing more than 7,000 developers building AI apps with Einstein, and they hope to prime the pump further by investing in some of the better ideas.
While $50 million might not seem like a huge amount of money in venture capital terms (although it is to most of us), Garratt says the intent is to be a secondary investor, writing many smaller checks, rather than several huge ones. What's more, he says they are viewing this as an initial commitment to AI, and they'll see where it goes and if it warrants additional investment.
When it comes to what they look for in a company, Garratt says they are primarily trying to be sure there is strategic alignment between Salesforce and the start-up with the goal of extending Salesforce in some way. The startup gets more than a check. It also gets access to the massive Salesforce customer base (and in some cases the Salesforce worldwide marketing and sales team).
The first three companies being funded include AI start-ups Highspot, Squirro and TalkIQ along with All Turtles, an AI startup studio that works with young companies trying to build AI-centric products.