Amazon announced the $100 million Alexa Fund in 2015. It’s mission: identify and fund promising startups focused on voice technology innovation. Those startups would then also make a big commitment to the Alexa voice platform and they would get special access to Amazon engineering resources as a benefit. The Alexa Fund has over 30 investments to date including ecobee, Ring, Vesper and Trackr. Two Alexa Fund investments, KITT.AI and Dragon Innovation, have already been acquired. The fund also invested in nine companies from its recently completed Alexa Accelerator program.
Doubling Down on the Alexa Fund
Yesterday, Amazon doubled down, literally, on the Alexa Fund. The fund announced an additional $100 million in venture capital that will be “targeted at international investment opportunities.” A blog post by Paul Bernard stated:
We think now is the right time to expand our efforts with a dedicated focus on international opportunities. This new global focus will allow us to support a next wave of companies and entrepreneurs.
Mr. Bernard added that Amazon received applications for the University Research competition Alexa Prize from 22 countries. The Alexa Fund has also made investments in “seven companies based outside the U.S.” And, Alexa-enabled devices are starting to show up in more international locations. Canada, India and Japan recently became the latest countries with localization for Amazon Alexa and the Echo line of products. Amazon announced yesterday that Australia and New Zealand would be added to the list in early 2018.
Jumpstarting and Ecosystem
The Alexa Fund is just another tool that Amazon uses to build its voice technology ecosystem. Because Amazon didn’t have the luxury of a large mobile developer community, the company has taken several steps to jumpstart ecosystem growth. That includes SDKs and free developer training on the software side. Hardware reference designs and components are available to manufacturers. Then there is the Alexa Fund to fuel good ideas and growth. It also can act as a liaison for the voice technology companies to the broader venture capital community. The fund is designed more as a complement to existing funding sources than a replacement. As long as more devices and software support Alexa, fund managers will be meeting the primary goal.