Healthcare drives AI funding level to new record last year

In 2019, 24 new AI unicorns were created and non-US companies dominated the AI funding landscape, found a new report.

Funding for startups that use artificial intelligence in their products and services continues to rise, setting another record in 2019, according to the latest report from CB Insights called “AI in Numbers.”

Last year, VCs invested $26.6 billion across 2,235 deals worldwide. That represents a 20 percent rise from the $22.1 billion deployed the year before and a 15 percent uptick from the 1,940 deals completed in 2018.

For the second year in a row, healthcare companies took the largest share of AI investment activity, funding $4 billion across 367 deals. The other top industries active in applying AI were finance and insurance, which closed on 198 deals and collected $2.3 billion, and retail and consumer packaged goods, which saw 159 deals receive $1.5 billion in funding.

The year saw 10 megadeals funded in the AI vertical. The largest AI deal of the year was Nuro, a Mountain View developer of autonomous delivery robots, which raised $940 million from SoftBank.

China-based companies Magvii (also known as Face++) and Horizon Robotics, were the second and the third most funded AI deals of the year, receiving $750 million led by Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and $600 million from China Oceanwide Holdings, respectively.

Last year also gave rise to 24 new unicorns that apply AI technology, surpassing 2018’s record of 19 companies that reached valuations of $1 billion or more.

Another notable trend is the dropping US share of AI startup fundraising. In 2019, 61 percent of all funding in this sector went to non-US based companies.