Ascend raises $25M for a second fund to invest early stage AI companies
The latest artificial intelligence startups are in high demand as venture capitalists race to make investments. However, many of these so-called "AI experts" were just last year's crypto investors. They'll have to compete with VCs who have been investing in AI for years.
Take Kirby Winfield, founder of Seattle's Ascend Fund. He's been involved in AI since the 1990s. He sees opportunity as well as danger in the future now that every VC wants a piece of the AI pie.
Ascend is announcing a $25 million second fund to invest in early-stage AI businesses, primarily in the Pacific Northwest. Winfield said “We have become even more convicted around investing at pre-seed, This is where we want to play. We want to take more ownership at that stage.” According to Winfield, Ascend’s experience gives them an edge over newcomers, "It's easy to demo an AI project, but we can spot the real technical chops."
But he knows hype will cloud many deals. "AI doesn't matter," he warns. "What matters is the solution for customers."Instead of simply adding AI labels to products, Winfield wants to find startups that are using AI to address pressing issues. His portfolio exemplifies this, like Xembly, an AI "virtual chief of staff."
However, Ascend will face intense competition as large funds like Bessemer raise $1 billion for AI. The AI boom presents opportunities and challenges for both startups and venture capitalists. On the one hand, AI has great potential for transforming businesses and solving problems. But there's also a chance of getting carried away by the hype and overlooking the pertinent problems. Investors who have a deep understanding of AI and are committed to assisting startups in succeeding will rise to the top. Finding investors for startups is crucial because they can provide more than just capital; they can also provide invaluable advice, connections, and a strategic vision that aligns with your objectives. Recognizing the difference between AI hype and substance has never been more crucial given the current rush of players into AI. Real solutions, solid foundations, and the right partnerships will help startups and investors alike navigate the AI gold rush and come out stronger on the other side.