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Cisco chair and CEO Chuck Robbins announces a $1-billion AI investment fund for start-ups during his keynote address at Cisco Live in Las Vegas. Photo: ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK (Camera: Canon EOS R100)

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Cisco Live: New $1bn fund targets AI start-ups

At the Cisco Live expo in Las Vegas this week, the networking giant announced strategic investments in Mistral AI, Cohere and Scale AI, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

Generative AI front-runners Cohere, Mistral AI and Scale AI are the headliners in a new $1-billion investment fund announced by Cisco this week.

During the Cisco Live expo in Las Vegas, the global networking hardware leader doubled down on its commitment to AI, declaring: “AI isn’t just the latest turning point in technology. It’s an efficient, intelligent source of digital resilience that can connect and protect entire organisations and power growth, scale, and an inclusive future for all.”

To this end, the AI investment fund has a four-pronged goal: to bolster the startup ecosystem, to expand the development of secure and reliable AI solutions, to advance customers’ AI readiness, and to complement Cisco’s own AI innovation strategy. 

Cisco says it has already committed nearly $200-million of the fund, which may seem miniscule in relation to investments being made by most major technology companies in building out their own AI capabilities. However, the investments are more strategic than operational, giving Cisco a seat at the table of some of the most innovative AI startups in the world.

It cited recent research from the International Data Corporation (IDC) that indicates the global AI market is expected to double in size to over $500-billion in the next three years. In this context, it said, enterprises “have an opportunity to leverage Gen AI to significantly enhance their products and services and better serve their customers and end users”.

Leverage is the key word here: rather than enter a bidding war in order to own one or two of these companies – as it did with its recent $28-billion acquisition of cybersecurity company Splunk – it is able to spread its influence across numerous key players.

“We also have an opportunity to leverage this technology, as you’ve heard me say so many times, to tackle some of the biggest challenges in the world,” said Cisco chair and CEO Chuck Robbins in his opening keynote address. “Many of you would probably tell us that when the cloud era hit, we perhaps weren’t as prepared as we should. I will tell you today, as this AI era begins, we are very, very prepared to help you navigate this as we go forward.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx, editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee.

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