The Brains Behind IBM Watson Have Raised $60 million For a New York-based AI Firm


David Ferrucci, the AI researcher renowned for leading the creation of IBM Watson, has successfully secured nearly $60 million in funding for his AI startup called Elemental Cognition. The company’s regulatory filing reveals that it raised $59.95 million in equity from 17 investors, with plans to raise an additional $5.75 million.

Based in New York’s Helmsley Building, Elemental Cognition aims to develop AI with advanced cognitive abilities. It offers two enterprise products, Cogent and Cora, which function as specialized chatbots for various contexts, including financial services, interactive travel planning, and research discovery in life sciences.

Previously, Ferrucci was at the helm of IBM Watson from 2006 to the end of 2012, overseeing its well-known victory on the quiz show “Jeopardy!” Afterward, he led AI research at Bridgewater Associates, a major hedge fund. Ferrucci holds a Ph.D. in computer science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

The company’s operating chief, David Shepler, is another former Bridgewater executive with IBM experience. Notable figures from the AI industry, such as Eric Brown and Mike Barborak, both vice presidents at Elemental, also have backgrounds at IBM.

Elemental’s list of investors and advisors includes Jim Breyer, the founder and CEO of Breyer Capital and an early investor in Facebook, as well as former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano. Greg Jensen, the co-chief investment officer of Bridgewater, and Geoff Yang from Redpoint Ventures are also part of the group.

Ferrucci confirmed the recent financing in an email statement, expressing the company’s intention to leverage the funding to enhance its efforts in bringing reliable reasoning and transparency to the AI market.

While Elemental’s website doesn’t heavily emphasize generative AI like some recent prominent models, its LinkedIn page highlights the company’s revolutionary Generative AI platform with advanced natural language understanding that powers problem-solving intelligence and research applications.

Elemental’s unique selling point lies in its hybrid AI platform, combining large language models with an AI-powered reasoning engine to generate responses that adhere to established boundaries. This contrasts with OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which has gained significant attention in the AI field.

IBM’s Watson initiative, though groundbreaking, ultimately didn’t prove highly profitable. Last year, IBM sold its Watson Health unit to private equity firm Francisco Partners, and more recently, the company introduced WatsonX, a development studio aimed at training and deploying machine learning models.

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