Mon. Jan 27th, 2020

Investors merge firms, raise fund to support AI

Investors merge firms, raise fund to support AI

Founders Jennifer Gill Roberts and Kelly Coyne / Credit: Petra Nizetic

Investors Jennifer Gill Roberts and Kelly Coyne are merging their respective companies, seed-stage investment firm Grit Labs and go-to-market firm Pitch, under the name Grit Labs to invest in and guide companies performing research in artificial intelligence and robotics.

They have also created a $30 million fund to focus on B2B robotics powered by AI and plan to work with the companies from product prototype to launch.

“The really unique thing about the time we are in is the fundamental shift in the way we will view engineering talent. The technology needed to build artificial intelligence hardware is extraordinarily advanced and specific. The founders we are seeing are not coming out of boot camps – they have incredibly specialized disciplines and are largely coming from postgraduate programs or from deep within the R&D labs of large companies with the resources to build up these competencies,” Coyne said in a press release. “This is why we have focused our sourcing strategy on those two areas – building advisement relationships within large firms as well as creating deep ties to universities and our alma maters, Stanford and Oxford.”

The executives want to fund companies in their pre-seed round and be the first institutional money in, so that they can help drive the companies’ trajectory.

“When I built Pitch, it was because I had been working with many companies in Silicon Valley, starting from that very critical conceptual stage,” Coyne said. “I saw so many of them make critical mistakes before I joined – often similar ones – issues with anticipating BOM, building a Beta program or crafting a launch strategy. This is why I was so passionate about building a firm focused on pre-seed.”

While the firm will invest in a variety of companies, Roberts and Coyne want to ensure a diverse group of executives and researchers can benefit from their fund, both to support female founders and ensure products can equally serve all consumers.

“AI shouldn’t be defined by one gender or one race,” Coyne told Venture Beat. “There have already been cases of racism and sexism in AI. Having a diverse set of minds behind the funding and building of these companies is the best thing we can do to ensure that we have all the angles covered.”