Salesforce acquires AI start up

By Jamie Davies

Salesforce is set to acquire deep learning start up MetaMind in an effort to bolster it artificial intelligence capabilities.

While terms of the deal have not been released, it would appear to be an “acqhire” based agreement, as Salesforce will integrate MetaMind’s technology into its current services. Long-term intentions have not been announced, though MetaMind’s capabilities will be used to automate and personalize customer support in the first instance.

“With MetaMind and Salesforce coming together, we’ll be able to offer customers real AI solutions with breakthrough capabilities that further automate and personalize customer support, marketing automation, and many other business processes,” said MetaMind Founder Richard Socher. “We’ll extend Salesforce’s data science capabilities by embedding deep learning within the Salesforce platform.”

MetaMind’s expertise is based on Socher’s PhD where he explored deep learning artificial intelligence. The company teaches machines to recognize images and understand natural language, operating in a similar way to the networks of neurons in the human brain. While these capabilities have been limited to internet giants such as Facebook, Google and Baidu, Socher founded MetaMind under the ethos to “build deep learning technologies anyone can use, not just the internet giants”. The company was initially funded by Saleforce CEO Marc Benioff and venture capital fund Khosla Ventures.

The acquisition builds on growing AI trends within the industry on the whole, as industry giants are currently competing for leading spot in the emerging segment. With Microsoft, Google, IBM and Facebook, all making strides in recent weeks, it should not be seen as a surprise that one of the world’s largest CRM brands is also entering the fray.

“Over the past year and a half, we’ve been on a mission to empower business users with state of the art deep learning technology to simplify, improve and automate decision making,” said Socher. “And now, we’ll be able to continue our journey at Salesforce on a much larger scale, with the resources and ecosystem of one of the world’s most innovative and influential enterprise software companies.”

For unpaid web users, MetaMind’s products will be discontinued on May 4, whereas for paid users, products will be discontinued on June 4. Although it has not been made 100% clear what the long-term strategy of the acquisition will be Socher highlighted that the MetaMind team’s research will continue and it is still receiving CV’s for new positions.

Outside of the AI space, Salesforce has also signed an agreement with NEC to establish its second data centre in Japan to support its growing customer base over the Asia-Pacific region. Japan’s public cloud service market grew to 2.6 billion yen in 2015 and is forecasted to reach 6.3 billion yen by 2020.

“Salesforce’s plans to open a second data centre in the Kansai area reflects our commitment to Japan and the Asia-Pacific region,” said Shinichi Koide, CEO at Salesforce Japan. “Salesforce continues to increase its strategic investments in the market, enabling local companies to leverage the latest cloud, mobile, social, data science and IoT innovations to create connected experiences that matter to their customers.”

While Salesforce is still considered in the industry as the market leader, Oracle and Larry Ellison have actively targeted Salesforce market share, as the company still appears to measure itself against Salesforce’s success. As a company which has built its reputation on innovation it should not come as a surprise that Salesforce is pursuing technologies such as artificial intelligence to bolster its product offering and enforce its position as the industry leader.