Re/code has just published a story saying Google has acquired London based artificial intelligence company, DeepMind, for $400MM. Google confirmed that it was happening but did not say at what price. The Company was founded by games prodigy and neuroscientist Demis Hassabis, Skype and Kazaa developer Jaan Tallin and researcher Shane Legg. The first commercial applications were to be in simulations, e-commerce and games. The acquisition no doubt adds significant artificial intelligence talent to Google, and the deal was supposedly led by CEO Larry Page himself.
The Company seems quite secretive, with currently only a landing page, and little information around funding or otherwise. However, LinkedIn profiles suggest the Company is about three years old and Founders Fund is a major investor along with Hong Kong based Horizons Ventures.
Update: The Information reports that the purchase price was over $500MM and Google beat out Facebook for the deal, who had been in serious negotiations with the Company late last year before talks fell apart for unknown reasons. Various sources also say DeepMind has a team of 50-75 people and has secured more than $50 million in funding, so depending on the purchase price, potentially a ~8-10x return on capital and $5-$10MM per employee. It is described as “the last large independent company with a strong focus on artificial intelligence,” and competes with companies like Google, Facebook and Baidu for talent. Google has also created an ethics board to ensure DeepMind’s AI technology isn’t abused — I wouldn’t be surprised if the founders of DeepMind made this a condition of the deal.