Microsoft Ventures gets busy, invests in CrowdFlower

Microsoft seems to have no problem with finding places to spend its cash through the recently-established investment arm – Microsoft Ventures – as of late. Just fresh off an investment round in India-based mobile chat service HelpShift, word from VentureBeat is coming that another startup is on the receiving end of Microsoft’s bets for the future, CrowdFlower.

CrowdFlower, founded in 2009 in San Francisco, is a “crowdsourced data cleaning and tagging platform.” The service is a combination of machine learning and human intelligence that can work on tasks hard or impossible to achieve with just algorithms, from sentiment analysis to content moderation and even doing transcriptions of content. CrowdFlower has generated a lot of happy customers using its service, but this current tech is not what Microsoft Ventures, along with two other venture capital firms, is investing in–they are, after all, investing in the future.

“At Microsoft, we’re looking to create experiences for people and businesses where technology intelligently supports what they’re doing,” “CrowdFlower’s approach — combining human and machine intelligence to solve all types of unstructured data problems — aligns with that effort. We look forward to supporting them in their next phase of growth in the broader machine learning and A.I. market.”

– Nagraj Kashyap, corporate vice president, Microsoft Ventures.

The future here, it turns out, is artificial intelligence, or more specifically, CrowdFlower A.I., a new product from the namesake maker, whose development will be fueled by the new cash. With this investment, Microsoft is staying consistent with its interest in machine-learning and AI, evident in the company’s recent forays into chatbots, or AI projects using Minecraft.

Furthermore, according to CEO and founder Lukas Biewald, CrowdFlower A.I. is not going after futuristic projects like self-driving cars, but instead will be focusing on bringing “A.I. and machine learning between the reach of every business, to attack million dollars problem.” The words could almost have come straight from a Microsoft’s spokesperson’s mouth; in other words, it’s a perfect alignment with Redmond’s focus and its “empowering every person on the planet” mantra. We can expect CrowdFlower to become an important investment for Microsoft in the AI space in the future.

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