SA’s Cortex Group launches AI-focused VC fund

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Cape Town-based artificial intelligence (AI)-focused holding company Cortex Group has launched Cortex Ventures, a VC fund offering early or growth stage funding to African AI startups.

The Cortex Group is made up of six brands, each focusing on a different part of the AI ecosystem, including Cortex Logic, an AI software and solutions company that helps businesses thrive in the smart technology era.

Cortex Ventures, the company hopes, will become a one-stop-shop for African AI startups looking for funding, as well as the opportunity to tap into the Cortex Group’s technical advisory, AI application development capabilities and co-working space.

It has opened applications to its Click-2-Pitch Challenge in a bid to source startups seeking investment. Dr Jacques Ludik, chief executive officer (CEO) and founder of the Cortex Group, said the AI play was so large that there was a need for a dedicated VC company focused on entrepreneurs working with AI-based technologies that leverage data science, machine learning or deep learning in their stack.  

“The world of artificial intelligence is seeing an explosion of new companies requiring investment and we intend to fill that gap, especially those seeking early stage funding, which is traditionally seen as higher risk by more traditional VCs and investment entities such as banks, angel or private investors,” he said.

Dr Nick Bradshaw, who will be heading up Cortex Ventures, said there had never been a better time to be a tech entrepreneur in the AI space.  

“Many of the things you could only dream of doing in this space two to three years ago are now possible and access to free or cost-effective resources via open source, APIs and cloud providers such as Microsoft, AWS, Google and IBM is making this happen,” he said.  

“As a VC focusing on both early and growth stage businesses we are supplementing the traditional support a VC can offer with unique access to AI developers and data scientists, product advisory services and a free co-working space so that we can be close to the companies and partners we are working with, ultimately making them succeed.”

Cortex Ventures plans to collaborate with other VCs, incubators, accelerators, academia, industry and government in order to create a pipeline for AI growth. All applications for the Click-2-Pitch Challenge will be considered for the opportunity to pitch for investment, with the company accepting submissions from pre-MVP, MVP, pre-revenue or post-revenue AI startups from anywhere on the continent.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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