Intel Capital Showcases 12 Startups, Shift to Data-Centric Strategy

The temperature in California’s Palm Desert hit 107 degrees Tuesday, but indoors at Intel Capital’s Global Summit meeting, the corporate venture arm said it has invested a cool $115 million so far this year.

Intel Capital wasn’t ready to disclose exactly how many startups it has funded, but it highlighted a dozen tech companies that got almost two-thirds of the total ($72 million) with innovations in semiconductors, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Intel’s venture arm uses the three-day summit, taking place this week in Palm Desert, as an opportunity to showcase its portfolio companies. The event brings together almost 1,000 entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders for networking and company building.

The investments exemplify the growing emphasis at Intel on investing in data as a business, according to Wendell Brooks, an Intel senior vice president and the president of Intel Capital.

As Brooks noted in an opening presentation, 46 percent of Intel’s corporate revenue is now “data-centric”—a shift that has occurred over the past seven years as the chipmaker also managed to show growth in its personal computing business.

Intel CEO Bryan Krzanich expanded on this theme in a subsequent presentation, saying “Data already is the most transformational entity or commodity on the planet. I call it the new oil.”

Data is becoming a resource, Krzanich explained, because “the cost of storage has declined at an amazing rate; it’s declined more than the cost of computing.” As a result, it’s become much cheaper to store data, and to apply advanced computing power to extract new insights from all that information. The combination of big data and improved analytics is driving a revolution in artificial intelligence, Krzanich said.

With the advent of 5G networks, Krzanich and Brooks see sensors and devices becoming more pervasive and the world becoming more immersed in data-fueled experiences, such as autonomous vehicles, augmented reality, and virtual reality. This vision is guiding Intel Capital’s investments in IoT, self-driving vehicles, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and even a new investing partnership the company’s venture arm has formed with the National Basketball Association.

In a summary of Intel Capital’s venture investments and M&A deals, Brooks said it has been making bigger investments in new companies, and reducing the number of new venture deals from 60 or 70 a year to 30 40.

“We really think autonomy will become ubiquitous in the next 10 years,” Brooks said, explaining the $16 billion Intel has sunk into autonomous technology companies. He acknowledged that more than $15 billion of that sum was last year’s acquisition of Mobileye, the Israeli autonomous navigation company.

Intel Capital also has invested about $1 billion in AI over the past three years, including its 2016 acquisition of San Diego-based Nervana Systems, Brooks said.

Intel Capital said it invested $690 million in 42 new companies in 2017, with another 45 getting follow-on funding. It was an outsized year for the corporate venture arm, which typically invests somewhere between $300 million and $400 million a year. For Brooks, however, the most important stat had to do with outcomes: 26 portfolio companies were acquired and 10 went public.

Against a backdrop of #MeToo and sexism in Silicon Valley, Intel Capital also announced it has met a goal set in 2015 of investing $125 million in startups run by women and underrepresented minorities. More than 10 percent of the portfolio is now led by such entrepreneurs, Brooks said.

The portfolio companies that Intel highlighted at this year’s global summit are:

Avaamo. A Los Altos, CA software company that specializes in conversational AI to make conversational interaction with computing a reality.

Fictiv. San Francisco-based Fictiv is bringing virtual reality and other technologies to improve manufacturing processes.

Gamalon. Cambridge, MA-based Gamalon is a specialist in machine learning that can be used to structure free-form text such as surveys, chat transcripts, trouble tickets, and more.

Reconova. Based in Xiamen, China, Reconova is applying AI to computer vision for use in smart retail, smart home, and intelligent security markets.

Syntiant. An Irvine, CA, semiconductor company that is accelerating the transition of machine learning from the cloud to edge devices.

Alauda. A Beijing, China-based company providing container-based cloud services.

CloudGenix. A San Jose, CA-based company with software-defined wide-area network (WAN) technology that transforms legacy hardware WANs into a software-based, application-defined fabric with significant cost savings.

Espressif Systems. Based in Shanghai, China, Expressif is a multinational, fabless semiconductor company that leverages wireless computing to create high-performance IoT chips for appliances and a host of other applications.

VenueNext. A Santa Clara, CA, company that transforms the way guests experience every kind of venue, from arenas and concert halls to hotels and hospitals.

Lyncean Technologies. A Fremont, CA, company founded in 2001 to develop a miniature synchrotron X-ray source for use in semiconductor manufacturing to shrink features even further on computer chips.

Movellus. Based in San Jose, Movellus develops semiconductor technologies that enable digital tools to automatically create and implement functionality previously achievable only with custom analog design.

SiFive. A San Mateo, CA, company provides market-ready processor core IP based on the RISC-V instruction set architecture.

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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