It’s been five years since Google acquired DeepMind, inciting VC investors from Silicon Valley to London to hunt for AI startups. Since this time, several investors who focus primarily on AI companies have emerged, evangelizing new practices for evaluating and valuing AI-first companies.
But what does it mean to be an AI investor, and how is this approach different from traditional venture capital? Ash Fontana and Katherine Boyle share their perspectives on investments in machine intelligence and data science.
Ash Fontana is managing director of Zetta Venture Partners—the first venture capital fund focused on intelligent systems, which he launched with Mark Gorenberg. The firm has $185M under management and has invested in 21 companies. Ash is a board member of and lead investor in companies such as Kaggle, Invenia, Clearbit, Tractable, and Focal Systems. Previously, Ash started the money side of AngelList, the most successful startup investing platform in the world; he launched online investing, managing $130M over more than 250 funds, creating the first startup index fund, and curating investment opportunities across 500,000 companies. He also ran special projects like AngelList’s expansion into Europe and the UK and simultaneously led syndicates and angel investments in Canva, Mixmax, and others. Ash cofounded Topguest, a Founders Fund-backed company that built customer analytics technology for companies like IHG, United, and Caesars Entertainment. Topguest sold in an eight-figure transaction 18 months after the company was founded.
Katherine Boyle is a principal at General Catalyst, a bicoastal venture capital firm with $5B under management. She focuses on early-stage investments in frontier technology and highly regulated industries, including aerospace, defense, computational biology, robotics, and autonomous mobility. Before becoming an investor, she was a staff reporter at the Washington Post, where her features and investigations appeared in every section of the paper (except Sports). Katherine holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where she was research and teaching assistant to Condoleezza Rice and Amy Zegart for their course and newly released book Political Risk: How Businesses and Organizations Can Anticipate Global Insecurity. She’s a graduate of Georgetown University and holds a master’s degree in public advocacy from National University of Ireland, Galway, where she was George J. Mitchell Scholar.
Sarah Catanzaro is a principal at Amplify Partners, where she focuses on investing in high-potential startups that leverage machine intelligence and high-performance computing to solve real-world problems. Previously, Sarah co-led investments in Kinetica, Platform9, and Fluxx at Canvas Ventures. Sarah has several years of experience in developing data acquisition strategies and leading machine and deep learning-enabled product development at organizations of various sizes: As head of data at Mattermark, she led a team to collect and organize information on over one million private companies; as a consultant at Palantir and as an analyst at Cyveillance, she implemented analytics solutions for municipal and federal agencies; and as a program manager at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, she directed projects on adversary behavioral modeling and Somali pirate network analysis. Sarah holds a BA in international security studies from Stanford University.
Arif joined Lightspeed in 2008 and focuses primarily on investments in the areas of cloud and datacenter technologies, as well as enterprise mobile and SaaS solutions.
Arif is currently working closely with the teams at Avi Networks, Memoir Systems, Netskope, Nutanix, Pertino Networks, Qubole, Xova Labs and Virtual Instruments. He was also involved in several Lightspeed investments which have had successful exits including Edgespring (acquired by Salesforce.com), IO Turbine (acquired by Fusion-io), RAPsphere (acquired by AppSense) and StreamOnce (acquired by Jive Software).
Prior to joining Lightspeed, Arif worked in the Corporate Business Development group at Cisco Systems where he focused on mergers and acquisitions, strategy, and investments in the Unified Communications, Enterprise Collaboration, Mobile, and SaaS market segments. Before joining Cisco Systems, he was with Novitas Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm.
Earlier in his career, Arif worked in technical development and product management roles at WebTV (acquired by MSFT), Andes Networks (acquired by SUNW), and Sun Microsystems.
Arif is a charter Member and member of the Organizing Committee for the C100, a non-profit, member-driven organization that supports Canadian technology entrepreneurship through mentorship, partnership and investment. He also founded WVP Ventures, a student-run venture capital fund, while in business school.
Arif holds an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and a BSc in Computer Engineering from the University of Waterloo, Canada.
Lan is the founding partner of Basis Set Ventures (www.basisset.vc), a ~$140M early stage venture firm focused on the Future of Work through artificial intelligence. Lan built the Corporate Development Strategy team at Dropbox, which was one of the most acquisitive private tech companies during her tenure with 30+ acquisitions. Prior to Dropbox, she worked with McKinsey in New York and Shanghai, advising Fortune 500 companies on issues including big data, AI, and growth strategy. Earlier in her career, Lan was an entrepreneur who built brain training games. She studied human brain functions for her Ph.D. and received her MA in Statistics, both from the University of Michigan.
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