The Global Artificial Intelligence Landscape – by Asgard and Roland Berger | 2018

Together with Roland Berger, Asgard Capital has published the results of the Global Artificial Intelligence Landscape.

Artificial Intelligence Strategy for Europe 2018

Further versions are:

To access the database of 3,465 Artificial Intelligence companies, please use this Link:

DOWNLOAD DATABASE

Once you have confirmed your email address, you will receive the database in excel format.

AI’s Vision Problem

Visions of an AI Apocalypse, or Just a Lack of Vision?
By Mass Swayne

Matt Swayne is a science writer  at Penn State and a communication professional interested in innovation and future technologies.

Some of the brightest people on the planet have a rather bleak assessment of the impact artificial intelligence will have on humanity’s future, assessments that run from living under the thumb of machine dictators to complete annihilation.

Here’s Elon Musk’s vision for AI:

“The least scary future I can think of is one where we have at least democratized AI because if one company or small group of people manages to develop godlike digital superintelligence, they could take over the world,” Elon Musk said. “At least when there’s an evil dictator, that human is going to die. But for an AI, there would be no death. It would live forever. And then you’d have an immortal dictator from which we can never escape.”

Here’s the late Stephen Hawking’s vision for AI:

“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race….It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”

Both quotes sound more like Woody Allen:

“More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

But, are futures — even futures envisioned by really smart people —  governed by evil robot dictators and threatened human extinction events, jobless economies, and meaningless existences really visions at all, or are they caricatures at best?

The future should not rest on these types of soundbyte exaggerations, says Fabian Westerheide, founder and CEO of Asgard and an international expert on Artificial Intelligence strategy and the rapid rise of the blockchain/token economy. What society needs is a vision for the future that doesn’t discount the possible dangers, but puts them in proper perspective with optimism and commitment.

Westerheide added that the blinders that limit the vision of AI to robot-led dictatorships should be taken off to help guide a future that’s both pro-human and pro-machine.

“For me, this is the future: humans and AI will work together,”

says Westerheide, who spoke at GrowthCon 2018 in Frankfurt, Germany.

There are signs that this isn’t just an optimistic vision, but a realistic one, as well. AI may take jobs, but could create jobs, too. And, let’s face it, AI might take away some crappy jobs, giving people who typically labored in those fields a chance for other more rewarding activities, if they retrain and seize the opportunity.

AI is starting to make progress in not just improving the quality of life, but improving life, itself. The health and medical industries are just beginning to feel the effects of artificial intelligence.

For example, Dr. Stephen Wiviott, executive director of the Clinical Trials Office at Partners HealthCare, recently suggested that AI could revolutionize clinical trials, adding it could cut costs by 90 percent because too much time is spent on checking and rechecking for human errors.

These developments show that, despite the media’s attention to AI’s doom and gloom scenarios, an entirely different future is possible. Although it often doesn’t get the headlines, it’s a vision shared by experts, such as Google’s Larry Page, Sebastian Thurn and Chris Anderson.

“We need to promote a vision for society and create goals that are ambitious enough to make us live for them and strive for them,”

said Westerheide, adding that there are signs that other people and institutions share this vision. The European Commission has finally published a strategy for supporting the European Artificial Intelligence ecosystem, for example.

“This is needed and a great step to a better future for Europe,” he said. “And I think it’s a step toward the future where AI plays a role in helping us live longer and happier lives, actually with less fear.”

Westerheide and dozens of other experts on AI will be on hand May 17, 2018 at the Rise of AI conference in Berlin, hosted by Asgard venture capital. Rise of AI is one of Europe’s first and largest conferences for Artificial Intelligence in Berlin.

The difference between Initial Coin Offerings and Token Sales

ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings) raised over $5.6 billion worldwide last year. And less than half of them were even successful. It’s clear this new fundraising method- almost unheard of just a few years ago- has become an insanely popular way for startups to raise much needed early seed capital. (Watch this 1 minute video to see the explosion of funding.) Blockchain technology, lessened regulation, liquidity, and crowd mentality have come together in a perfect storm for startups looking for quick capital.

But ICOs are not for everyone. Fraudsters are taking advantage of this craze (I’ll discuss that further in my next article), but there are also legitimate practical reasons that ICOs may not be the best choice for a firm’s fundraising strategy.

So what can traditional firms learn from this trend? Can we take positive attributes of the ICO, like transparency and liquidity, and layer them with solid, tried-and-true methods of traditional fundraising?

Absolutely.

Token Sales are the logical next wave of crypto-based investing. Mainly executed so far by Hedge Funds and Venture Capital firms like us, Token Sales combine the best aspects of traditional investment models and ICOs. In this article, I’ll describe the differences between ICOs and Token Sales.

Initial Coin Offering - ICO vs Token Sale - Asgard 2018

Technology product vs. finance service

ICOs are for technology companies; Token Sales are for finance companies. While a technology company issues coins in exchange for operating cash, Tokens are sold for a service.

In order to produce a product, startups are using ICOs as a substitute for equity that would normally come from business angels and venture capital firms. In contrast, finance companies, including hedge funds and venture capital firms, aren’t producing a product but can use blockchain-based Tokens to make their finance offerings globally accessible.

Ideas vs. business models

Almost every ICO I’ve observed is based on ideas and concepts. Very few startups launching an ICO have a running business model, revenues or significant traction. If you invest in an ICO, you should believe in the idea, team and product potential. That’s why I invested in the current Ocean Protocol ICO, for example.

Token Sales are backed by a solid business model. Venture Capital firms have a clear and proven way to make money. They collect capital from their investors (traditionally called limited partners), invest this money in strategically-chosen companies, hold the shares until the underlying companies are worth significant value and finally sell the shares at the highest possible price. Earnings are then paid back to the limited partners. The same goes for Hedge Funds.

By using blockchain-based, transferrable Tokens in lieu of limited partnership interests, Venture Capital firms can offer their investors the best of both worlds, ICO and traditional VC. And soon we’ll see more finance products based on blockchain Tokens like bonds, stocks, derivatives, insurances and real-estate-funds. The blockchain is the perfect use case for the finance industry.

Unregulated vs regulated

ICOs are mostly unregulated or act in a legal grey zone. Many teams setup a tax-favored foundation in Singapore to launch the ICO, then transfer investment money back to Europe or the US. Sometimes there’s a pit stop in the Caymans for even less transparency. Currently, China and the USA are the only countries in the entire world actively regulating ICOs.

In contrast, as finance products, Token Sales are already regulated. In Venture Capital, we have existing standards for consumer protection, data security, anti-money-laundering and investment criteria. These standards were created and proved long before the emergence of ICOs and therefore provide a solid framework to support the evolution of Token Sales. Sure, there are ways to avoid regulations, and I know a handful of players who do it. But we at Asgard, for example, go for full regulation and transparency by working closely together with European financial supervising agencies.

By the way, I’m pro-regulation concerning money matters. Regulated companies have a lower likelihood of failing or committing fraud. Your investment is safer with them. Although policymakers sometimes go overboard, regulation (like in health care) provides trust and security.

Crowd vs professional investors

ICOs are a crowd investment, a successor to platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Companisto or Seedmatch. Thousands of backers make small contributions, usually less than 1.000 € per person, adding up to meaningful sums because of sheer masses.

In contrast, Token Sales target professional investors, often requiring a minimum investment of 50k €, or 200k € in our case. As a consequence, the firm’s focus is on the merits of the fund, not swaying the fickle crowd. A Token Sale is a blockchain-based financial offering with increased transparency for those who are aware of upside potential and downside risk.

Professional investors don’t go for a quick buck. Instead, they do their homework (called due diligence) and play the long game. The terms of a Token Sale are market standard and provide rights for Token holders. On the other hand, ICOs often provide no rights, no security and no guarantees for the crowd.

If Token Sales mimic anything about the ICO crowd mentality, it’s that they seek input from their investors who are keenly interested in what’s going on in the fund. For our Token Sale, for example, we expect to attract AI enthusiasts and those who believe our AI companies are the future. We welcome our Token holders’ ideas and feedback!

It’s important to note that use of Tokens on the blockchain, instead of traditional limited partnership interests, allows for smart contracts and compliance processes that are less costly, cross-border, fully digital, quick to implement and decentralized. Thick paper documents that used to take weeks to sort through are now uploaded quickly and understood by everyone, not just the lawyers. Token ownership is tracked transparently and securely on the blockchain. In this way, the benefits of technology used by ICOs are incorporated into the traditional Venture Capital model. This is why we believe Token Sales will change the entire investment industry.

Funding to spend vs capital investments

Companies use ICOs cover their costs. ICO capital pays for rent, team, agencies and other operational expenses.

Token Sales are designed to collect capital for investment. Token Sale capital increases the value of an underlying portfolio that can pay back profits to investors.

With an ICO, a backer hopes the product idea takes off but also that the coin will be exchangeable for a quick profit based on demand for the coin itself. This quick selloff on the secondary market is really just more frenzy. This is a much different strategy from a Venture Capital backed Token, where the underlying investments/growth of portfolio companies are indeed the focus of profit, not pump ‘n dump hype.

High volatility vs. low volatility

High volatility vs. low volatility a huge advantage for ICOs and Token Sales is the possibility of buying and selling coins and tokens on a secondary market. As mentioned above, this often creates a volatile pump ‘n dump situation for ICOs. Backers are looking for a quick profit, and startup executives are holding their breath there’s not a sell-off when holding periods expire.

For Token Sales, the secondary market simply provides flexibility and more liquidity potential than the traditional Venture Capital model that has little to no secondary market, holding periods and other ways of tying up your money. Trading Tokens on the secondary market is cost effective and efficient. VC firms can take a lesson from the ICO playbook by using Tokens, since their secondary market provides more liquidity to investors while maintaining the integrity of the underlying funds.

What is right for me?

ICOs are for those who seek the thrill. Those who like to trade daily and want super returns for high risk. ICOs can also be worthwhile for those who believe in the mission of a product and are willing to lose their entire investment to support that vision. However, be aware that up to 80% of coins may never return their capital, so only invest money that you don’t need back.

The value of Tokens will grow slower and therefore can provide more stable returns. Tokens are issued by companies with clear regulation and a long-term perspective. Token holders buy real value, not only ideas. Additionally, the incentive structures are aligned between Token buyers and the management team.

No matter how you feel about them, you can’t deny that ICOs have brought much-needed technology to the startup world. It’s time for traditional investment methods to catch-up. We truly believe that Tokens are the natural advancement of the Venture Capital business model.  

To learn more about our Token Sale, visit www.asgard.vc and join our www.riseof.ai conference!

A Venture Capital Token Sale (ICO) to Bring Us the Golden Age of Artificial Intelligence

Today we’re announcing the beginning of our token sale for the Asgard Singularity Fund. This article explains why we’re using a blockchain model for our relationship with investors and why we’re investing in Artificial Intelligence. I’ll make sure it’s a worthwhile read.

We live in a digital world, but Venture Capital is still stuck in the ’90s

The digital world is moving fast. Today the five most valuable companies globally are all digital players (Alphabet, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft) with the next giants originating from China are on the rise (Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent und Xiaomi).

The funding situation for startups has improved significantly too. Today we have AngelList, business angels, micro Venture Capital (VC) funds, Corporate VCs, incubators, accelerators, state funds and – most recently – Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs/public token sales).

Meanwhile, however, the fundraising process for Venture Capital companies is typically slow, offline, closed-off, paperwork-intensive, regional and not easily accessible. While society moves forward into the future, the Venture Capital business still feels like the 90s.

I would go so far as to say it’s broken. If you want to invest in a Venture Capital fund, you need a lot of money and personal, direct access to the fund manager. Like Private Equity, the VC network has been dominated by a closed group of insiders who hoard earnings and influence, while limiting access and benefits for the public.

And VCs are important. Alongside entrepreneurs, VCs benefit the most financially from the creation of world-leading companies. Without the capital given by VCs, there would be no Facebook, Google, Uber, Amazon or WhatsApp. And the returns for investing in the right companies can be astonishing.

Private Token Sales could change Venture Capital

The idea of combining a token sale (often called ICO) with Venture Capital has been on my mind for a year or more. There were many obstacles to overcome with regard to regulation and operations. I’ll share all my learnings in a more detailed post following the token sale.

As an entrepreneur, I like challenges, and I found this one especially appealing.

As an investor, I’m very open to new ways of raising capital for my VC firm.

We are going to operate on a combination of self-service-fundraising,  crowdinvesting, and Venture Capital. Since I have personal experience in all of these fields, I’ve combined them to create something new. The result is a private token sale for a specialized Venture Capital company.

I truly believe that what we’ve come up with could change the whole Venture Capital industry. I say “we” because behind me is a great team of many people who are currently working hard to make it happen.

Transparent. Easy. Fast. Globally accessible Venture Capital.

So what exactly is new, better and different compared to existing Venture Capital processes?

First:  Our fund is globally accessible. Anyone from anywhere can invest in our fund without the need of a network or to know us in advance – provided token sales are allowed in your country.

We designed this token sale for individuals and companies who:

  • Have significant assets in cryptocurrencies and would like to diversify with a long-term return on their capital.
  • Love tech and want to benefit financially from it.
  • Want to invest capital easily and quickly into a hard-to-access asset class.
  • Are existing Limited Partners ( LPs; standard term for investors in Venture Capital funds) like fund of funds, pension funds, banks, state funds and family offices.

Second: I love transparency. I blog a lot (sometimes in German) and like to share knowledge. This is the same way we structured the Asgard token sale. There’s plenty of information on the landing page. And once you sign-up, we share even more details like our whitepaper, pitch deck and contracts. Instead of requiring investors to proactively ask us for every single document, we share them freely. Knowledge should be free of charge and openly accessible. The same applies to for Venture Capital.

Third: Going hand in hand with transparency; communication is key. During and after the token sale we can be reached via email, LinkedIn, Skype, Slack, Telegram, our blog, public forums and internal discussions boards. Communicating clearly and frequently provides trust and builds a stronger relationship.

Fourth: The entire investment process is digital. Normally it takes months to join a Venture Capital fund. You have to print and read hundreds of pages of contracts.  This archaic method is slow, painful, complicated, redundant and far from easy to understand.

Instead, we designed a process that only takes you minutes to complete. You still have to undergo the usual KYC (know-your-customer) and AML (anti-money-laundry) processes, as with every other fund, but we optimized them for accessibility and usability. It’s not written by lawyers (although it is approved by them) and is therefore easy to understand.

Fifth: The digital process leads to faster decisions on both sides. You, as an investor, can decide on your own timing based on available information, and we can check your accreditation to invest within minutes instead of weeks. It’s less complicated and less painful for all of us. Welcome to the 21st century.

investment process token sale

Token process vs. standard process

Tradeable Asgard Singularity Token in a straightforward legal setup

Once you invest, we provide even more benefits compared to some (not all) existing VC firms.

Your share in our VC fund will be tradeable, since it’s a token. The Asgard Singularity Token represents your share in the fund and your right to receive future earnings. It’s your proof of ownership alongside the investment contract. You can buy more tokens from other investors, or you can sell your tokens in case of illiquidity. You’ll receive payments from us over the coming years based on the number of tokens you hold at the time of each payment.

Yes, there are ways to sell shares in existing VCs too, but it’s very difficult and expensive. Standard VC funds are not very transparent. There are also no exchange platforms to match buyers and sellers. With a token and use of blockchain technology – a secure, decentralised ledger – the process is significantly transparent, easy and fast.

Furthermore, your investment will not be public record. Only our funds management team will know who owns the tokens.

The legal structure of the Asgard Singularity Fund is straightforward and organized in Germany under European regulation. We don’t need tax-avoiding structures on sunny islands in the Caribbean, nor regulation-avoiding structures in Asian city-states. We operate transparently and understandably.

We’re a special Alternative Investment Fund (AIF). This means our fund is registered with the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin), and we report to the German Central Bank.

Investors benefit from further investment opportunities and deep market insights

We also put together an internal investor’s board (I know the name isn’t fancy, so please feel free to suggest something cooler.) Token holders will have access to the board, which will serve as our main way to communicate, trade and gain insights.

We’ll share possible investment deals like co-investment opportunities and follow-on funding opportunities. We’ll also share deep market insights into trends and technologies that are not currently public knowledge. We’ll share our view on the most innovative and ambitious companies currently working on game-changing human-centric technologies.

Token holders can actively support the portfolio and be an integral part of the fund process. Companies always need help with sales, recruiting, strategy and funding. We want to tap into the network of our token holders to help the portfolio increase in value.

The Golden Age of Artificial Intelligence

Those are some, but not all, of our motivations to hold a token sale for our Venture Capital company.

Our primary motivation is the desire to bring about the Golden Age of human-centric Artificial Intelligence.

I truly believe we are the origin of something remarkably great and wonderful. One-day we’ll tell stories to our grandchildren about these exciting times.

Just look at the books by Ray Kurzweil, Charles Stross, Daniel Suarez, William Hertling, Ernest Cline or Daniel Jeffries and you’ll understand how close we are to a future where self-fulfillment and prosperity will be accessible to everyone. The Golden Age for humankind as a whole. Sure, there will be many “ifs” and “buts”. That’s why we have to strongly believe that the future will be a better place to live than the present.

During the past three years at Asgard we’ve invested in amazingly cool early-stage companies developing great AI technologies like Accelerated Dynamics, Micropsi Industries and Parlamind. There are currently 7,500 AI companies out there globally. Hiding among them, we’ll find the 30 teams that will be the AI world leaders of tomorrow.

It’s the perfect time for it. We have plenty of data, processing power, talent, research and tools. We just need a few more brave VCs willing to risk supporting real innovations instead of making safe bets on existing business models with long-established technologies.

Applied AI is already out there – we call it Narrow Artificial Intelligence. These are AI systems that solve very specific tasks. They do it better and faster than humans. You might not call it AI anymore, but Google Search, navigation systems, chess computers, autopilot, trading bots and self-driving cars all those are types of narrow AI. Once we’ve solved a problem with AI, we start calling it software instead.

There are also strong teams (like DeepMind and Sentient Machines) working on Artificial General Intelligence – AI systems that learn faster with less human help. Systems that can transfer knowledge, build a memory and start to reason their decisions.

I could play the number game. I might write that the AI market will grow to $126 billion and add $15 trillion to our economy over the next decade. But for me, it’s more about trusting ourselves that we can make this planet a better place to live. That we humans will live longer peaceful and be happier and wealthier with the help of AI.

Sure, there will be risks and challenges. We need to discuss AI regulations, biased AI and AI morality. But those are topics for another blog post.

We’ll see AI running on blockchains, making them decentralized, autonomous organizations. AI will help us create and manage virtual worlds. AI will make Augmented Reality possible. It’s a great time to be alive.

If you want to learn more about our token sale, go to ico.asgard.vc. Feel free to follow Asgard on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. You can also follow me personally on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

Image credits:

F65JA0 Alamy Stock Photo

Venture Capital Analyst Internship – Berlin 2017/2018

Please apply with this link

Venture Capital Analyst Intern

You have a keen interest in Venture CapitalArtificial Intelligence, Entrepreneurship and Blockchain? Then keep reading.

Asgard is a Berlin based early stage venture capital firm for Artificial Intelligence. Do you believe the Singularity is closer than we might think? Then we are the right place for you to invest in the future. In 2017/2018 we would like to have another Venture Capital Analyst Intern at our team to support the leading AI companies in Europe.

You will learn:

You will gain insights in how a venture capital firm works. You will understand the fundamentals of early stage investments and operations. Additional you will win insights into markets, startups, trends, networks and technologies. You can become an AI VC.

Your tasks will be:

You would help us with deal flow; that means analysing deal opportunities and preparing investment decisions. You would help us to create the next AI Global Industry landscape (see our German and EU version). Since we are currently preparing our ICO (please google it, if you haven’t heard the term before), you would be involved in building one of the first global Venture Capital firms running on a Blockchain.
Furthermore we organise every year the largest conference for Artificial Intelligence in Germany (Rise of AI), were you would be involved in speaker management, running your own session and networking with the most influential AI experts in Europe.

What skills you should have:

You should be a quick thinker. You are open towards new technologies and trends. You have an international mindset. You are analytic and like to ask questions. You are driven and curious. You are hard working and enjoy responsibilities. You can keep timelines and work goal orientated. You like working independently.

You do not need to speak German, however you should be at least fluent at English. We like it, if you speak several languages and have lived in more than country before. We do not care, what you have studied before, however we favour technical degrees in various combinations. It is easier to understand AI startups, if you can read code.

Additional we like variety. Tell us how you bring new perspectives to our team.

The basics:

You have time for three to six months. Six months would be better, but we can work with less too. You would need to be in Berlin for at least the first 12 weeks. In Berlin you will have a combination of virtual office (work from everywhere) and physical meetings in Berlin-Tempelhof.

Once the ICO succeeds, we will need one or two full-time Associates. Therefore there is the real option, that after the internship we may make you a full-time offer.

Starting day: December 2017 or beginning 2018.

Interested?

Then please fill out your application.

Phase 1: Application
Phase 2: Case Study + Video
Phase 3: Personal or Skype-Interview
Phase 4: Offer
Phase 5: Onboarding and getting started

About Asgard:

We are a family owned Venture Capital firm located in Potsdam and Berlin. We provide Human Venture Capital for Artificial Intelligence. www.asgard.vc.

Contact us anytime

Get in touch with us:contact@asgard.vc