AI startups continue to roared ahead, global pandemic or no.

What’s new: Tech industry analyst CB Insights published its fifth annual list of the 100 most promising private AI companies.

What they found: The list of 100 was drawn from over 6,000 contenders based on measures including number and type of investors, R&D activity, news sentiment analysis, and competitive landscape. (Disclosure: Landing AI, where Andrew is CEO, is on the list.)

  • Just over half of the companies selected provide services such as machine learning operations (MLOps) that feed tech’s appetite for AI. The rest cater to 18 other industries, mostly healthcare, transportation, retail services, and logistics.
  • Collectively, they’ve raised $11.7 billion since 2010. The most richly funded entries include Chinese chipmaker Horizon Robotics ($1.6 billion), American autonomous driving company Aurora ($1.16 billion), and Chinese self-driving outfit Momenta ($783 million). More than a dozen are valued at more than $1 billion.
  • Many of the companies are still in early stages. Over a third haven’t made it past Series A funding.
  • Sixty-four companies on the list are based in the U.S. The UK has eight, and China and Israel have six each.

Whatever happened to . . . : Twenty-one companies from last year’s list made it to this year’s. Three of last year’s cohort had successful IPOs, one went public outside regular investment channels, and two were acquired. All are still in business.

Why it matters: In the midst of massive global economic turmoil, the AI industry continues to prosper. But, while AI’s impacts are global, U.S. companies continue to scoop up most of the rewards.

We’re thinking: Building companies is hard. To quote Theodore Roosevelt, credit should be given to the person “who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.” To everyone working on a startup, we wish you success!


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