Responding to a popular request, we are now sharing transcripts of our investor podcast interviews in this new series. The following interview with Ankit Jain was recorded in May 2018.
Ankit Jain is Founding Partner at Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI venture fund.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s introduce you to our audience. Tell us about yourself a bit and introduce us to Gradient Ventures. What is the focus of the fund? How big is the fund?
Ankit Jain: Gradient Ventures is Google’s AI-focused early-stage venture fund. We invest $1 million to $10 million in companies that have a central AI theme or focus. We tend to be in one of two buckets. The first are platform companies that are enabling others to take advantage of AI.
Some of the companies in our portfolio that fall into this are Algorithmia and Ubiquity6. The other bucket of companies that we tend to invest in are vertical applications that take AI and apply them to different fields. There’s a company in medical imaging, augmented reality, HR, and recruiting. We’re looking at companies ranging from the legal tech space, to FinTech and taking the breakthroughs of the last few years in artificial intelligence and applying them to specific verticals.
We started the fund just about a year ago. By way of personal background, after graduating from UC Berkeley, I started my career at a small search startup that was trying to reinvent how search metadata was stored and how to be very efficient.
To some degree, we were trying to compete with the big leagues in search. That company ended up being acquired by Google in 2010 and I was fortunate enough to be a very early member of the Android team helping build and launch what is now Google Play. I was on the search recommendations and infrastructure side. You can think of that as cloud and AI for Google Play.
I left in 2013 to start a mobile intelligence startup. I got a little piece of software on about 250 million phones to try to understand what mobile users were doing. The analogy here is it was like Nielsen but for the mobile ecosystem. I was very fortunate to be able to partner with a larger competitor in an acquisition with SimilarWeb, which is an Israeli company. I spent a couple of years there before returning to Google just over a year ago to help launch Gradient.
I’m very fortunate to be able to work with some very exciting entrepreneurs at the cross-section of Google and AI. I think we’ve got something very special in the making here.
Sramana Mitra: Excellent. How big is Gradient?
Ankit Jain: Like a lot of things in machine learning and AI, we are running an AI algorithm on ourselves to figure out what the right fund size should be. The way it works is we’ve been given an allocation of capital on an annual basis. As we use it, we can get more, so there isn’t a fixed fund size if you will.
Sramana Mitra: It’s an evergreen fund with Google as the only limited partner and you can access more capital if you need to.
Ankit Jain: Right.