13 acquisitions highlight Big Tech’s acquisition of AI talent in 2020

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It’s no secret that Big Tech has acquired top technology talent through product acquisitions and acquisitions over the years. In fact, this is what the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is currently investigating through its ongoing antitrust investigation. It’s no surprise, then, that Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Alphabet (FAAMG) are in an arms race for AI talent, with millions of dollars on the line for some of the best tech minds. there is no.

In 2019, the Big 5 acquired more than 14 AI startups across everything from e-commerce and self-driving cars to education and customer service. This year was no exception, with FAAMG acquiring a similar number of AI-powered companies from around the world. Here’s a quick summary.


Scape Technologies (Computer vision and AR. Founded in London in 2016)

In early 2020, news broke that Facebook had acquired London-based computer vision startup Scape Technologies in a deal reportedly worth $40 million. His Scape, founded in 2016, used AI to build real-time 3D maps of the world from standard images and videos. Scape’s initial focus was on augmented reality, but the ultimate goal was to create a 3D mapping infrastructure for drones, robotics, logistics, and more.

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Neither Facebook nor Scape have disclosed details of the acquisition or future plans, but Scape has confirmed that it is retiring and scaling back its API and that co-founder and CEO Edward Miller will take on the role of Facebook’s research product manager. I decided to take on the role. The social networking giant has already confirmed plans to release his AR glasses in 2021, and has made no secret of its ambitions in the mapping space since acquiring Mapillary this year, so Scape It’s well integrated into those plans.

Atlas ML (Machine learning. Founded in London in 2018)

The acquisition actually closed in December 2019, but it wasn’t until February that Facebook confirmed it had quietly acquired London-based deep learning research startup Atlas ML. This seemed like a typical acquisition, with founders Robert Stojnick and Ross Taylor now software engineers at Facebook AI. They continue to work on Papers With Code, a free and open resource containing newly published machine learning papers, code, and evaluation tables.

customer (Automated CRM. Founded in New York in 2015)

In November, Facebook confirmed it would acquire New York-based customer relationship management (CRM) platform Kustomer in a deal believed to be worth $1 billion. Founded in 2015, his Kustomer allows businesses to automate repetitive customer service processes, such as identifying incoming messages and routing queries to the appropriate team. You can also respond to questions automatically.

The deal fits squarely into Facebook’s social commerce push, positioning Messenger and WhatsApp as important communication conduits for businesses. Kustomer also continues to operate as an independent entity.


Above: Kustomer: Automated Messaging for CRM

Image credit: Kustomer


Zoox (Self-driving car. Founded in San Francisco in 2014)

Amazon has had a pretty quiet year on the acquisition front. The company’s only known M&A deal took place in June, when it announced it would buy self-driving car company Zoox for a reported $1.2 billion.

Self-driving cars could play a big role in Amazon’s vast delivery infrastructure, but for now Zoox continues to work on developing self-driving cars for consumers. In fact, Zook recently announced a four-seater robotaxis.

Self-driving cars are a major focus area for many big tech companies, with Google’s sister company Waymo leading the way and Apple reportedly ramping up its self-driving car plans. Amazon has previously invested in self-driving car startup Aurora and electric truck company Rivian, so bringing Zoox under its wing is a good fit.

apple (Edge AI. Founded in Seattle in 2016)

Apple acquired a number of AI startups in 2020. It all started with the news in January that Apple had acquired, a Seattle startup focused on efficiently bringing AI to edge devices like smartphones and drones. The deal is reportedly worth $200 million.

How will benefit Apple by improving how AI is deployed locally across hardware and powering edge computing with the Core ML 3 toolkit for developers It’s easy to see.

voice (voice assistant. Founded in Dublin in 2012)

Apple also acquired Voysis, a Dublin-based startup that has built a natural language conversational interface that runs directly on mobile devices, with a particular focus on supporting “rich natural language interactions between brands and users.” to enhance the Siri voice assistant.

The partnership could make Apple’s voice assistant even more useful within e-commerce apps.

Above: Voices

Scout FM (Podcast powered by AI. Founded in San Francisco in 2017)

Podcasting has gone from strength to strength in recent years, with the likes of Spotify, Google, and Apple investing heavily in the medium. Apple’s decision to acquire San Francisco-based Scout FM made a lot of sense as the company specializes in curating podcasts based on users’ listening history. It’s easy to see how Apple could use this kind of AI to improve podcast suggestions.

camera light (Computer vision and AR. Founded in Tel Aviv in 2014)

Camerai, formerly known as Tipit, develops deep learning and computer vision technology for photography, enabling developers to integrate smart image processing into their apps. For example, it can detect human features and morphology, allowing users to change hair color and style, or adjust skin tone.

Above: Camera

News of Apple’s acquisition of Camerai only broke in August, but the deal was concluded between 2018 and 2019 and reportedly cost Apple “tens of millions of dollars.” It is said that The team appears to have already been integrated into Apple’s computer vision division, and the technology is used in the iPhone’s camera, making it easier for developers to bring AR features to their apps.

Billinx (AI video search. Founded in Barcelona in 2011)

Apple also acquired Barcelona-based Vilynx, which was developing AI technology that analyzes video (including visuals and audio) to “understand” content.

According to Bloomberg, although Vilynx itself is now defunct, many members of its team (including its founder) have joined Apple, with Apple intending to turn its Barcelona office into one of Europe’s major AI research and development hubs. It is said that it continues to exist.

It’s not clear exactly how Apple plans to use the talent and technology it gains from this acquisition, but the way Vilynx extracts content metadata is through voice search of video content via Siri. It could be useful for categorizing content on Apple TV.


soft motive (Robotic process automation. Founded in London in 2005)

While Softomotive is not strictly an AI company, it does believe that robotic process automation (RPA) can help companies automate repetitive processes, albeit using structured input and logic. It works closely with AI in several ways.

RPA is a $2 billion industry, and Microsoft already offered some RPA tools and technologies as part of its Power Automate platform. That’s why it snapped up London-based Softomotive earlier this year for an undisclosed sum.

soft motive screen

Above: Softomotive screen

Microsoft announced that it will add Softomotive’s desktop automation tools to Power Automate and offer them to business customers at “uniquely affordable prices.” For now, Softomotive remains available as a standalone product.

ADRM software (data modeling. Founded in Nevada in 1999)

While this wasn’t a pure AI acquisition, ADRM Software has emerged as a leading provider of large-scale, industry-specific data models, and data powers AI. Microsoft said it will combine ADRM’s data model with Azure’s storage and compute to support building data lakes.

According to ADRM, the integration will “significantly power modern data warehousing, next-level analytics, and AI and ML.”

orions systems (computer vision. Founded in 2012 in Snoqualmie, Washington)

In July, Microsoft announced it would acquire Snoqualmie, Washington-based Orions Systems for an undisclosed amount. Founded in 2012, Orions Systems develops smart vision systems that incorporate AI to analyze video and images to extract data, backed by human assistance to help train models. I am.

Microsoft is integrating Orions Systems technology into Dynamics 365 connected stores and Microsoft Power Platform to help retailers and other organizations build and customize their own AI models and glean insights from “observational data” in physical spaces. It has been made clear that it will be done.


app sheet (No-code app development. Founded in Seattle in 2012)

Back in January, Google announced that it would acquire no-code app development platform AppSheet. AppSheet is a platform that helps companies create apps connected to their core business data. AppSheet also comes with a set of AI smart features such as optical character recognition (OCR), predictive modeling, and natural language processing (NLP) to speed up data entry and help users build any type of app. You can figure out what you want.

Google said AppSheet, which is still available as a standalone product, “complements the company’s strategy to reimagine the application development space” and will be integrated into Google Cloud.

Above: AppSheet: Building no-code apps for the enterprise

AI everywhere

There have been a number of other AI acquisitions across the tech world this year, including cloud computing platform ServiceNow acquiring several AI startups, cloud communications company RingCentral acquiring conversational AI startup DeepAffects, and powerhouse Intel acquiring several AI startups. and acquired AI software optimization platform SigOpt. The list goes on.

But looking at the activities of the Big 5 not only serves as a snapshot of the types of AI technologies currently in demand, but also shines a spotlight on the sectors and niches where AI is needed. And this is how many bright emerging technology minds jump at the chance to become part of a larger company and accelerate product development, or abandon their own products and sell dozens of consumer and consumer products. This highlights how billions of people are working on something completely different. enterprise area.

Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Google often make acquisitions with the vision of incorporating a startup’s technology into their existing products and services. It was also clear that they wanted the talent to work on a wide range of new projects. But it all boils down to the same thing. Big Tech is looking for talented AI talent now more than ever.

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