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AI2 team meeting
Team members at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence celebrate the launch of Semantic Scholar during an impromptu meeting at the institute’s Seattle headquarters. (AI2 Photo via Glassdoor)

Is technical expertise the key to success in the fast-moving world of artificial intelligence market? Or is it entrepreneurship?

Top-notch engineers with a yen to build a startup can get the best of both worlds through a newly created CTO residency program at Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, or AI2.

“Google has DeepMind, Facebook has FAIR, Microsoft has Microsoft Research AI,” Jacob Colker, managing director of the AI2 Incubator, told GeekWire. “But AI2 is one of the few places where entrepreneurs and early-stage startups can access the same kind of talent that’s available to the big guys.”

The residency program will be open to talented engineers who are typically working at a senior level or coming from a recent startup at the level of chief technology officer.

“We’re looking to create an opportunity for these engineers to launch the next billion-dollar company,” Oren Etzioni, AI2’s CEO, said today in an announcement unveiling the program.

Residents will learn about the latest in artificial intelligence and deep learning from mentors on AI2’s team of about 75 researchers and engineers. They’ll also work with three seasoned Seattle entrepreneurs:

  • T.A. McCann, founder of Rival IQ and Gist, an active angel investor, and an adviser to more than 30 companies.
  • Gaurav Oberoi, founder of BillMonk and Precision Polling, and an active angel investor in ventures including Glowforge, Paperflip and Estately.
  • Kirby Winfield, a founding team member and operating executive at Go2Net and Marchex, former CEO at AdXpose and Dwellable, and angel investor in more than 20 companies.

“They are ready to rock and roll,” Colker said. “They’re looking to co-found companies and go to market.”

If the program works out the way AI2 expects, those veterans will team up with the residents to create brand-new business ventures, fueled by innovations in artificial intelligence.

“Huge new businesses are going to be built in the near future using the AI research we see today,” Oberoi said in today’s announcement.

AI2 was created by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2014 as a research center focusing on “AI for the Common Good,” but the institute also has given birth to a stable of startups, including Kitt.ai (which was acquired by Baidu last year) and Xnor.ai (which was spun out with $2.6 million in funding last year).

Just last week, AI2 announced that it would be taking an AI platform venture called ClusterOne under its wing in Seattle.

The CTO Residency Program is similarly Seattle-centric: Engineers from all over will be able to apply through AI2incubator.com or by sending inquiries to incubator@allenai.org. Applicants will go through several rounds of screening, and AI2 will make offers to a chosen few.

Colker said residents will be selected on a rolling schedule for stints at AI2 lasting as long as a year. They’ll get office space, access to expertise, a healthcare plan and a “modest” salary, Colker said.

“We’re going to make sure you can pay the rent and eat,” he said, “but the real goal is to build a great company and have an equity stake in that company.”

For more about the CTO Residency Program, check AI2incubator.com. The AI2 office photo comes courtesy of Glassdoor, which provides lots more photos and information relating to the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

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