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Microsoft starts AI-focused venture fund, invests in startup

Microsoft Corp.'s venture arm has started an artificial intelligence-focused fund and invested an undisclosed amount in Montreal-based startup Element AI.

Element AI, which was started by noted AI researcher Yoshua Bengio and others, helps businesses embrace an AI-first strategy.

Nagraj Kashyap, corporate vice president of Microsoft Ventures, said that the company expects its overall pace of investments to accelerate. He said that the "new fund will make investments of similar size to previous Microsoft Ventures investments, and will only include businesses with promise for strong financial returns."

The fund is part of a series of steps by the software giant to strengthen its AI portfolio, including a move in September to create a 5,000-person group dedicated to AI research.