MTS AI, the artificial intelligence arm of Russian telco MTS, is launching an international acceleration programme and venture fund to invest in AI startups across the world. Dubbed ‘Intema,’ the platform plans to invest some $100mn in startups from late seed up to Series B, reports East-West Digital News (EWDN).
The investments focus on language, image and behaviour analytics, edge computing and logistics, Alexey Posternak, CFO of MTS AI, told Forbes.
MTS AI’s first deal took place in March 2021: $10mn went to San Diego-based Edge AI chip maker Kneron. The deal also enabled MTS AI to receive exclusive distribution rights for Kneron chips in Russia and “move toward creating its own line of AI-ready products leveraging Kneron’s technology.”
Intema’s acceleration programme is backed by Californian Plug and Play, which touts itself as “the largest global innovation platform in the field of artificial intelligence.”
US mentorship, Russian funding
Through this partnership, the Russian company expects to “expand the number of global AI startups to be included in the accelerator programme” and receive access to “international expertise and possible investment opportunities.” As mentors, Plug and Play experts will “share their experience, enhance [participants’] knowledge, skills and capabilities in order to help them scale their businesses and foster the creation of cutting-edge AI solutions.”
In addition to this expert guidance, participants will receive from the Intema programme “up to $100,000” in early-stage funding.
MTS AI has its own in-house development teams, which are developing AI-powered chatbots and voice bots. These are used in the parent company’s call centres and machine vision tools for businesses.
The Russian telco also demonstrated its interest in AI through the Artificial Intelligence Alliance, which it co-founded in 2019 together with four other top Russian corporations – GazpromNeft, Mail.ru Group, Sber and Yandex – and the sovereign wealth fund RDIF.
That same year, MTS launched its first corporate venture fund with a two-year a $15mn investment. Artificial intelligence, machine learning and Big Data were already targeted, along with IoT, fintech, cloud and SaaS, edtech, eSports and media.
This article first appeared in East-West Digital News (EWDN), a bne IntelliNews partner publication.