Motus Ventures announced on Tuesday a $30 million fund in partnership with the Stanford Disruptive Technology and Digital Cities Program to help build companies around Stanford University’s renowned artificial intelligence and machine learning research programs.
The Motus Smart World Innovation Fund will also have a membership and advisory role in the Stanford program, which counts global corporations like Amazon, Bechtel, Microsoft, and Visa as partner groups.
Motus Ventures cofounder and Managing Director Jim DiSanto told Business Insider that, while some of the greatest companies have come from college dropouts like Mark Zuckerberg, the firm prefers to deal with those researchers who are continuing to innovate while reamining under Stanford’s banner. DiSanto said the Motus Smart World Innovation Fund will focus on researchers who “run their own labs,” like professors or lecturers.
“Companies like Yahoo and Facebook started in college dorm rooms and companies like Google started on Stanford’s campus,” DiSanto said. “Larry Page started Google and dropped out of his Ph.D. program and commercialized that into a company. I don’t want to discount the dorm room, could be another Larry Page on campus, but if we have to rely on lucky strikes that are in the dorm rooms here, that’s a little too risky.”
The surest bet DiSanto sees is with technology that applies artificial intelligence and machine learning applications in robotics, including technical components like cameras that are necessary for building robots with near-human intelligence.
“The ability to replace human, physical tasks is the largest technology opportunity of all time,” DiSanto told Business Insider. “As in all technological revolutions, jobs are gained and jobs are lost and jobs are changed. The hope is that pie will get larger but there are no guarantees. We’re looking at ways and thinking of ways to make this better for everyone but we are a for-profit institution and this is the best opportunity for growth.”
DiSanto explains that larger corporations are starting to realize the potential in automation as well, and says Amazon’s cashierless Go stores are a prime example of what this trend could look like over the next five years. He predicts more legacy companies will wade into the world of corporate venture investing to attempt to keep up with smaller upstarts tackling complex issues like autonomous trucking.
“We’ve seen big changes rolling into Silicon Valley, some of which are quite permanent,” DiSanto explained. “One that’s unmistakable and that is the role of the corporate investor and they are here to stay and they are here with a vengeance. Every large corporation around the world is here, and you will see thousands more of them setting up shop and starting ‘corporate innovation centers’ or ‘Silicon Valley innovation centers’ and that opens up new opportunities for all of us now.”
In its capacity as member and advisor, The Motus Smart World Innovation Fund will attend Stanford’s annual Digital Cities Summit and advise research teams on how to best monetize their technology during twice annual research reviews.