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Microsoft buys AI scheduling service Genee

M&A in the AI space is up this year, with companies like Twitter and Salesforce making acquisitions

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
August 22, 2016 | Comments
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/46e4

Artificial intelligence is really coming into its own this year. Not only is funding way up, but the number of deals are on pace for a record as well.

Genee, an artificial-intelligence-powered scheduling service, has been acquired by Microsoft, it was announced on Monday. No financial terms of the deal were disclosed, but it was revealed that Genee co-founders Ben Cheung and Charles Lee plan to join Microsoft in some capacity.

Founded in 2014, Genee is a virtual assistant that can make decisions on its own. For example, if someone wanted to make a coffee date, they would send an email and copy Genee onto it. Genee will automatically be able to understand what the person is trying to do, and will take it upon itself to send an email with open dates and times on the person's calendar, as well as a meeting invite. 

In a blog post, Lee and Cheung revealed that Genee will be shutting down at the beginning of September. It will step sending out reminders and agendas from a user's calendar, but all existing calendar entries created by Genee will remain. 

It is unclear if Microsoft has any plans to incorporate Genee's technology into it's own suite of products. 

"As we continue to build new Office 365 productivity capabilities and services our customers value, I’m confident the Genee team will help us further our ambition to bring intelligence into every digital experience," the company wrote.

This acquisition is reminiscent of Microsoft's purchases. It bought calendar app Sunrise in February of last year, before announcing it will be shutting down on August 31, only a day before Genee does the same thing. 

Genee had raised $1.45 million in venture funding from Aspiration Growth, Katrina Garnett, Streamlined Ventures and UJ Ventures.

AI acquisitions

There have been a lot of artificial intelligence companies being acquired this year. 

In the first half of this year, there were 24 mergers and acquisitions in the AI space, putting the number on track for 48 total. That would be a 33 percent increase from the 36 deals in 2015. The number is already higher than any year before 2014.

That includes Magic Pony, which was bought by Twitter in June, Metamind which was purchased by Salesforce in April, and Expertmaker, which was acquired by eBay in May.

With all of these companies being gobbled up, its the big players who are staking their claim. That included Google, which has made nine acquisitions in the space, including DNNresearch and DeepMind Technologies, followed by Twitter, which has made four, including Magic Pony.

Apple, Intel, Salesforce and Yahoo are also making big moves, and making acquisitions.

One company that did not make that list, surprisingly, is Facebook, even though Mark Zuckerberg has announced some pretty big plans for artificial intelligence this year, including building his own JARVIS, to run his home based on his voice commands.

He also sees big potential in this technology for Facebook going forward. 

"At Facebook I spend a lot of time working with engineers to build new things. Some of the most rewarding work involves getting deep into the details of technical projects. I do this with Internet.org when we discuss the physics of building solar-powered planes and satellites to beam down internet access," he wrote.

"I do this with Oculus when we get into the details of the controllers or the software we're designing. I do this with Messenger when we discuss our AI to answer any question you have. But it's a different kind of rewarding to build things yourself, so this year my personal challenge is to do that." 

He demonstrated the good it can do, for example, by incorporating AI technology to help blind people get audio descriptions of photos on the Facebook app. 

VatorNews reached out to Microsoft, and to Genee, for further comment. We will update this story if we learn more. 

(Image source: web.genee.me)


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