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IBM Watson team leader raises $60M for AI startup Elemental Cognition

David Ferrucci, the artificial intelligence (AI) researcher who led the team behind IBM Watson’s development, has successfully raised nearly $60 million for his Elemental Cognition AI startup.

According to a submission on Aug. 17, the company has finalized equity sales amounting to $59.95 million from 17 investors, with additional plans to secure $5.75 million in funding.

Based in the Helmsley Building in New York, Elemental aims to create AI with advanced reasoning capabilities. The company provides two enterprise chatbot solutions, Cogent and Cora, which are tailored for diverse applications, including finance, interactive travel planning and scientific research automation.

Screenshot of notice of exempt offering of securities.  Source: SEC archives

Ferrucci, having spent 18 years at IBM and serving as the Director of Applied AI at Bridgewater Associates, guided the IBM Watson team from 2006 to 2012, a period highlighted by Watson’s victory on the television game show “Jeopardy!”

Among Elemental Cognition’s leadership team are former executives of IBM and Bridgewater, including David Shepler, Eric Brown, and Mike Barborak. The company also includes notable investors and advisors like Jim Breyer, former CEO Sam Palmisano, Greg Jensen and Geoff Yang.

Elemental Cognition highlights its distinctive hybrid AI platform. Unlike conventional AI models, it integrates large language models (LLMs) with an AI-driven reasoning engine to enhance precision and controlled responses.

Related: Google upgrades search engine with AI-powered enhancements

Despite its initial promise, IBM Watson proved to be a non-profitable endeavor. In 2020, IBM divested its Watson Health unit to Francisco Partners. More recently, IBM introduced WatsonX, a studio aimed at training and deploying machine learning models.

Growing investor enthusiasm for AI startups has been spurred by the triumph of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Elemental Cognition aims to offer advanced generative AI functionalities, boasting superior natural language comprehension for problem-solving and research applications. With its distinct strategy and skilled team, the company emerges as a notable contender in the AI sector.

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