Showing it’s playing for keeps in the generative AI race, Salesforce today announced that it’s growing its Generative AI Fund, the part of the company’s Salesforce Ventures VC off-shoot backing startups developing “responsible generative AI,” from $250 million in size to $500 million.
In a canned statement, Salesforce Ventures managing partner Paul Drews said that the expansion would enable Salesforce to “work with even more entrepreneurs … accelerating the development of transformative AI solutions for the enterprise.”
“We’re already seeing AI change the way the world works, and we’re excited to build on the momentum of our Generative AI fund,” Drews continued. “We’re excited to support the next generation of innovative founders.”
Launched in March, the Generative AI Fund has already invested in several firms on the frontier of generative AI tech, including Cohere, Anthropic, You.com, Hearth.AI and newer additions Humane and Tribble. While far from the only fund investing primarily in generative AI, Salesforce aims to differentiate its tranche by prioritizing what it describes as “ethical” AI technologies.
For example, go-to-market function automation platform Tribble recently partnered with Private AI, a privacy-focused AI company, to use Private GPT, a product that redacts personally identifiable information before sending it through OpenAI’s ChatGPT chatbot.
The Generative AI Fund is also distinguished by the diverse range of technologies it’s financing. Humane, for instance, is creating a wearable, screenless AI assistant, while You.com hosts an AI-powered search engine with generative art and text tools.
Salesforce Ventures has a number of vertical-specific investment funds, including funds aimed at particular geographies such as Japan or Canada and a dedicated AI fund. But the Generative AI Fund is among the VC arm’s largest tranches to date; previous funds ranged from $50 million to $125 million.
The expansion of the Generative AI Fund coincides with the debut of Salesforce’s AI for Impact Accelerator, the company’s second-ever accelerator program. AI for Impact will grant $2 million to a cohort of education, workforce and climate organizations to “advance the equitable and ethical use of trusted AI.”
“AI for Impact aims to close the AI access gap by providing flexible funding, pro-bono expertise and technology to purpose-driven organizations, empowering them to accelerate generative AI-based solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges,” Salesforce said in a press release. “AI for Impact [is a] philanthropic initiative to help purpose-driven organizations gain equitable access to trusted generative AI technologies.”
Bloomberg notes that investments from Salesforce’s accelerators and funds may become more important to the company’s bottom line as activist investors, like Elliott Management, discourage large acquisitions. To date, Salesforce Ventures, one of the most active corporate VCs in recent years, has participated in over 140 deals for AI and machine learning startups, particularly in the areas of AI insights for sales, natural language chatbots for service requests, targeted marketing content and personalized ecommerce experiences.
Generative AI — assuming it lives up to the hype — could be a massive market opportunity. Grand View Research predicts that the sector could be worth roughly $109 billion by 2030.
The C-suite in particular expects generative AI to have an enormous impact on business. According to a recent KPMG survey, almost two-thirds (65%) of execs believe that generative AI will have a “high” or “extremely high”” impact on their organization in the next three to five years — far above every other emerging technology.
Beyond the Generative AI Fund and AI for Impact, Salesforce is investing in generative AI technologies internally, piloting tools like EinsteinGPT (which lets Salesforce customers ask questions about Salesforce’s content and services) and SlackGPT (which answers natural language questions about Slack content). In addition, Salesforce has previewed the ability to create landing pages on the fly, compose sales emails and write code in Apex, Salesforce’s programming language, to programmatically trigger certain actions in a workflow, among other tasks.