Google Brain co-founder raises $175 million fund for AI startups

(Reuters) - Andrew Ng, who formerly led artificial intelligence projects at Alphabet Inc's Google and Chinese firm Baidu Inc, has raised a $175 million fund to invest in AI startups, starting with one of his own aimed at computers detecting defects in products.

Ng announced Tuesday that he raised money from venture capital firms New Enterprise Associates, Sequoia Capital and Greylock Partners as well as SoftBank Group Corp.

Salaries of employees at 25 top tech companies:

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Salaries of employees at 25 top tech companies
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Salaries of employees at 25 top tech companies

Google

Average annual bonus: $32,478

Average sign-on bonus: $27,547

Average annual base salary: $136,000

Netflix

Average annual bonus: $0

Average sign-on bonus: $3,520

Average annual base salary: $206,000

Twitter

Average annual bonus: $120

Average sign-on bonus: $26,144

Average annual base salary: $149,000

Apple

Average annual bonus: $20,298

Average sign-on bonus: $27,201

Average annual base salary: $102,000

Facebook

Average annual bonus: $33,225

Average sign-on bonus: $45,708

Average annual base salary: $145,000

Oculus VR

Average annual bonus: $395

Average sign-on bonus: $6,926

Average annual base salary: $119,000

Amazon

Average annual bonus: $24,732

Average sign-on bonus: $41,340

Average annual base salary: $118,000

Square

Average annual bonus: $988

Average sign-on bonus: $17,996

Average annual base salary: $134,000

Uber

Average annual bonus: $31,633

Average sign-on bonus: $1,807

Average annual base salary: $117,000

Pinterest 

Average annual bonus: $4,374

Average sign-on bonus: $33,376

Average annual base salary: $151,000

Tesla

Average annual bonus: $4,779

Average sign-on bonus: $19,447

Average annual base salary: $105,000

UnitedHealth Group

Average annual bonus: $7,280

Average sign-on bonus: $118

Average annual base salary: $87,000

Snap Inc.

Average annual bonus: $10,588

Average sign-on bonus: $23,705

Average annual base salary: $127,000

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co.

Average annual bonus: $10,756

Average sign-on bonus: $8,265

Average annual base salary: $131,000

CSRA

Average annual bonus: $13,732

Average sign-on bonus: $1,186

Average annual base salary: $100,000

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Capital One

Average annual bonus: $15,114

Average sign-on bonus: $8,568

Average annual base salary: $107,000

Fitbit

Average annual bonus: $18,069

Average sign-on bonus: $25,459

Average annual base salary: $128,000

Pandora

Average annual bonus: $22,316

Average sign-on bonus: $18,886

Average annual base salary: $109,000

Microsoft 

Average annual bonus: $23,224

Average sign-on bonus: $20,191

Average annual base salary: $179,000

Airbnb

Average annual bonus: $23,250

Average sign-on bonus: $23,250

Average annual base salary: $124,000

Arista Networks

Average annual bonus: $27,497

Average sign-on bonus: $18,652

Average annual base salary: $151,000

credit: Facebook

Linkedin

Average annual bonus: $32,216

Average sign-on bonus: $25,418

Average annual base salary: $149,000

Dropbox

Average annual bonus: $32,707

Average sign-on bonus: $32,833

Average annual base salary: $144,000

VMware

Average annual bonus: $33,145

Average sign-on bonus: $18,851

Average annual base salary: $147,000

Salesforce

Average annual bonus: $39,959

Average sign-on bonus: $28,314

Average annual base salary: $142,000

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In an interview with Reuters, Ng said his goal was to identify new business ideas around artificial intelligence and be able to put cash into them quickly from the so-called AI Fund, of which he will serve as general partner, so that founders of the portfolio companies will not need to burn time pitching traditional venture capitalists.

Ng said he plans to draw on his experience at Baidu, one of China's largest internet companies, where he led the artificial intelligence team to develop a range of new business lines. Under Ng, Baidu released a voice-based operating system that users can talk to - much like Amazon's Alexa voice assistant or Apple's Siri - and also started working on self-driving cars and face recognition technology to open things like transit turnstiles when users approach.

“Based on that experience, I have an unusual point of view on the building of AI businesses. I think it’s a more systematic, repeatable process than most people think," said Ng, who also taught artificial intelligence courses at Stanford University.

The first company to receive money from the fund will be Landing.ai, a company Ng founded. Landing.ai is working with Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, better known as electronics assembler Foxconn, on using artificial intelligence to make factories more efficient.

In many factories, workers look over parts coming off an assembly line for defects. In Landing.ai's system, workers instead put a circuit board beneath a digital camera connected to a computer and the computer identifies any defects. The system can be trained with as few as five images, which the company says is fewer than its competitors. [nL1N1OE03Q]

Ng, who also co-founded online learning site Coursera, said he is also working on new tools for training workers whose jobs are in danger from artificial intelligence, though he said Landing.ai was not displacing visual inspectors.

"When you go to Japan, there is such a talent shortage that the debate about AI taking jobs is almost non-existent. The debate is, how can we automate this so we can get all the work done?" Ng said.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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