Artificial intelligence accelerator to promote Asian AI start-ups on world stage
A new artificial intelligence (AI) accelerator founded by a Hong Kong-born venture capitalist wants to bring Asia’s best AI start-ups to the global stage.
Dubbed Zeroth.ai, the AI accelerator was founded by Tak Lo, who most recently was a venture partner at Hong Kong venture capital company Mind Fund and a director at UK-based VC Techstars.
“AI for me is something that will move the meter on technology in the next five to 10 years, there’s no dispute about that,” Lo said. “[At Zeroth.ai] we want to empower as many people as possibleto be able to make that type of impact in technology.”
The accelerator programme, which is currently accepting applications from AI start-ups in Asia, will officially begin in November this year. Partners of Zeroth.ai include technology heavyweights such as Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, as well as Rui Ma of 500 Startups in China.
Lo believes that Zeroth.ai’s team of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists will be able to give the mentorship that AI start-ups in Asia need to grow beyond an early-stage company.
“I want to bring the wealth of experience and network from being a venture capitalist in New York and London to Asia and Hong Kong,” Lo said. “I think there is a lot of talent here in Hong Kong and I do want to see technical founders come out and apply for this programme.”
Selected companies will receive US$20,000 in funding in exchange for a 6 per cent stake in their company, and will go through a rigorous three-month programme under the mentorship of Lo and his partners. Companies will also be able to pitch to investors from around the world for investment at the end of the programme.
While technology giants such as Google and Facebook have dominated headlines this year with AI breakthroughs, such as Google’s AI computer programme AlphaGo beating Go grandmaster Le Se-dol in March and Facebook’s exploration into using AI chatbots for businesses to interact with customers, Lo said that programmes like Zeroth.ai are also important because it helps to encourage more talent to join the industry.
“I don’t think it should only be companies like Google, Facebook or Baidu wielding AI superpowers,” Lo said. “All the big companies are buying up AI talent because there’s clearly not enough in the market. But it is important for Zeroth.ai to exist because there is also talent in smaller companies, where founders are experimenting with AI.
“Only after we’ve achieved a critical mass of people that are actually experienced in AI technology ... can we start seeing the technological advances that I think we have always wanted,” Lo added.