Forward Partners raised £60 million from BlackRock to invest in artificial intelligence

Sep 13, 2017 ·

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Early stage UK venture capital firm Forward Partners has raised £60 million from a single institutional investor, BlackRock, and plans to invest in one of the hottest areas in tech — artificial intelligence (AI).

The fund closed in March, but Forward Partners has never revealed the backer beyond saying there was a solo institutional investor.

Business Insider examined public filings on Companies House, which show BlackRock invested through a diversified growth fund.

Managing partner Nic Brisbourne, formerly a partner at DFJ Esprit, said the firm wants to invest its second fund in AI startups working on a viable product, which he describes as "applied AI".

He cited SwiftKey as an example, a predictive keyboard for mobile which uses AI to work out what a person might type next. That was acquired by Microsoft for $250 million (£189 million) last year. Brisbourne believes applied AI startups could pop up across data-reliant industries such as healthcare, financial technology, travel, and pharmaceuticals.

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