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Toby Lewis, Editor, Global Corporate Venturing

Toby Lewis, Editor, Global Corporate Venturing

By Toby Lewis

IBM made a hugely exciting move in the world of venture capital a few months ago when it committed $100 million in a bid to boost its new IBM Watson Group business unit, which provides cloud services using Watson cognitive computing technology. The goal is to use targeted venture funding to help establish a sprawling ecosystem of companies that build web services and mobile apps on top of the Watson platform.

The strategy is a pioneering move within the field of corporate venturing. Typically corporations invest venture money in companies that are aligned with their technology and strategy. Sometimes they end up buying the companies they invest in. But IBM is pushing the model further than others by using its investments to help establish a new business ecosystem for a particular business unit.

For this reason, Global Corporate Venturing, the only media publication exclusively dedicated to tracking how corporates are investing in venture capital, gave IBM our Fundraising of the Year Award.

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FangBy Steve Hamm
IBM Writer

Fang, a cute plush toy who is much smarter than your average (stuffed) bear, is not something that IBM Watson Group had on its drawing boards. But the creative geniuses at a New York City startup, Majestyk Apps, dreamed up this novel way of using the power of Watson to delight and teach children.

Majestyk was one of three winners of the IBM Watson Mobile Developer Challenge, who were announced today. The others were GenieMD, of Pleasanton, Calif., a maker of mobile personal healthcare apps; and Red Ant, of London, England, a a provider of mobile technology for the retailing industry. Continue Reading »

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Michael Rhodin, Senior Vice President, IBM Watson Group

Michael Rhodin, Senior Vice President, IBM Watson Group

By Michael Rhodin

When IBM’s Watson arrived on the scene three years ago, it did one thing really well: Answer written questions very quickly on a wide range of topics. It amazed all of us with its understanding of language and its ability to sort through vast amounts of data in seconds. But that was just the beginning.

Today, IBM Watson is on a path to augment and scale human expertise on a variety of dimensions. As a software geek, I’m really excited about this. We’re architecting a technology development system, called the Watson Platform, which will be like a library for cognitive technologies. Scientists within IBM Research and engineers in the Watson Group are building discrete cognitive components that can be pulled off the virtual shelf by developers at IBM, by entrepreneurs and by corporate developers–and used in any number of applications. Continue Reading »

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Claudia Fan Munce, Managing Director, IBM Venture Capital Group

Claudia Fan Munce,
Managing Director, IBM Venture Capital Group

By Claudia Fan Munce

IBM has long had a keen interest in tech startups. For nearly two decades, behind the scenes, we forged relationships with venture capitalists to learn about their portfolio companies with an eye to acquiring some of the best of them when the time was right. That strategy served us well. Over the past decade, we have acquired more than 120 companies for a total of more than $34 billion dollars in critically strategic areas such as cloud computing, digital marketing and data analytics.

But oh how our world is changing.

Today, IBM is emerging as a major player in the startup economy. We continue to pursue our acquisition strategy, but now we’re doing much more. We have begun to invest directly in startups, we offer cloud services for thousands of born-on-the-Web companies, and we’re working with startups to help them build services powered by Watson, the cognitive computing system that shook up the world by beating two former grand-champions on the TV quiz show Jeopardy!. Continue Reading »

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By Steve Hamm

Joshua Krammes, Dir., Catalyst Program, IBM SoftLayer

Joshua Krammes, Dir., Catalyst Program, IBM SoftLayer

All Samar Birwadker and Subbu Balakrishnan had was the germ of an idea for a product when they attended a startup workshop in San Francisco in April of 2012. But they met Joshua Krammes there, and he helped them think through the intricacies of turning their idea into a company—Good.Co Inc., which is now in the later stages of creating a cloud service for matching the personalities of job candidates with the cultures of companies they’re interested in working for.

Krammes advised them to learn the ropes of entrepreneurship in the TechStars program, and, later, after they launched the company, he helped out with a host of business issues. But Krammes isn’t a startup consultant or venture capitalist, like you’d expect. He’s an evangelist at IBM SoftLayer who runs the Catalyst program for startups. Continue Reading »

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Wendy Lung, Director, Corporate Strategy, IBM Venture Capital Group

Wendy Lung, Director, Corporate Strategy, IBM Venture Capital Group

By Wendy Lung

If you ask people what they see as challenges in the venture capital environment in Africa, you will hear a few common themes:  the lack of seed and early stage capital, the need for mentoring and knowledge transfer, the need for greater global networking, and the lack of exit opportunities.

While these genuine challenges exist, there is much to be excited about in the growth of venture in Africa and how VCs are addressing these challenges.

I had the chance to catch up with Mbwana Alliy when he was visiting San Francisco last month. Mbwana is the Managing Director of Savannah Fund, a seed capital fund specializing in early stage high growth technology startups in sub-Saharan Africa. Based in Nairobi, Savannah Fund has a unique model of combining venture capital with mentor networks both in the region and from Silicon Valley via an accelerator program. Continue Reading »

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IBM Watson is famous for its escapades on the Jeopardy! TV quiz show. IBM has been collaborating with oncologists to leverage the question-answering technology in deciding on the best medical treatments for individual patients. And, in recent months, IBM has been engaging with businesses to put Watson to work in banks, retail stores, and corporate offices. IBM Researchers have their own ideas–featured in the 5in5 predictions. But it’s clear that there will be no end of uses for cognitive computing technologies like Watson that can learn, reason and interact with humans in ways that are more natural to us.

That’s where you come in. As a scientist, an engineer, a marketer, or an entrepreneur, your skills and ideas will be essential for inventing the new era. For consumers of technology, social networking gives you a seat at the table where the future is being designed. Your voices will shape the thinking of technologists and the services they offer to you. Continue Reading »

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Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson

Jeff Lawson, CEO, Twilio

Software people don’t just code, it’s a problem solving mindset. The proof is in the cloud. Every part of the IT infrastructure has moved to the cloud because software people have made it reliable, scalable, and secure.

Jeff Lawson, who developed “software people” chops at Amazon, StubHub and others, saw an opportunity to move one of the few remaining industries to the cloud: telecommunications, where installing boxes in closets, and upgrading them every 10 years is still the norm.

In 2008, he and co-founder Evan Cooke started Twilio – a solution that took the communications out of the closet and onto the cloud for others to create new and innovative services. The Smarter Planet blog caught up with Lawson recently to get his views on scaling audio and video on the cloud, its impact on the industry, and innovation. Continue Reading »

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Michael Karasick, Director, IBM Research-Almaden

Michael Karasick, Director, IBM Research-Almaden

By Michael Karasick

As a computer scientist and director of one of IBM’s global research laboratories, I find it fascinating to trace the repeated patterns in the history of computing. Typically, the Next Big Thing spends years in incubation, either as military initiatives (the first electronic computers), consumer phenomena (the PC) or science projects (the World Wide Web). But, ultimately, these advances are adopted by business enterprises, where they’re deployed at massive scale to make organizations more efficient and effective—and, ultimately, to drive growth and dynamism in the global economy. Continue Reading »

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Steve Hamm, IBM Writer

Steve Hamm, IBM Writer

By Steve Hamm

Picture yourself entering a popular e-commerce Web site or opening a mobile shopping app and being greeted immediately by a virtual shopping assistant that’s every bit as helpful as the best clerk you ever met in a brick-and-mortar store.  Actually, better. This assistant knows everything there is to know about the store’s merchandise and the situations in which it’s used. But it’s also the ultimate personal shopper. It knows who you are and what you like, and it learns more from interacting with you and presents you choices in a visually engaging way.

Brook Aguilar, Fluid Inc.

Brook Aguilar, Fluid Inc.

That’s just the kind of experience that Fluid Inc., a San Francisco-based digital commerce company, plans on offering through its many e-commerce clients, starting with TheNorthFace.com.The technology underlying the service is IBM Watson, which created a splash two years ago when it defeated two grand-champions on the TV quiz show Jeopardy! Embedded within e-commerce Web sites, Watson has the potential to transform the online shopping experience.“Watson is a turning point in technology,” says Brooke Aguilar, vice-president for Fluid’s Watson application strategy. “It shows how consumers will engage with computers in the future.” Continue Reading »

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