Amazon acquired artificial intelligence (AI) startup Graphiq earlier this year, industry sources with knowledge of the transaction said on Thursday, interpreting the move as the tech giant's latest attempt to improve its Alexa digital companion and a number of other products and services which utilize machine learning and general AI solutions. The Santa Barbara, California-based company had over 130 employees prior to the acquisition, and most of them are said to have continued working for Amazon following the purchase. The company's headquarters remain unchanged, and the same presumably holds true for its daily operations as the startup is likely still focused on big data analysis. The Californian firm was also reportedly negotiating with Google and IBM before agreeing to sell itself to Amazon, people familiar with the negotiations said.
It's currently unclear when exactly did Amazon's purchase take place, though the Seattle, Washington-based company is now reportedly already hiring new data associates and software engineers that would work at its new Southern California offices. The value of the transaction remains unknown, with sources close to the company estimating the purchase at up to $50 million. Graphiq raised approximately $32 million in private funding to date and its acquisition is believed to be higher than that figure, with insiders claiming that all of the company's previous investors made significant returns on the deal. Neither party has yet issued a comment on the matter in any capacity, though the transaction itself will likely be disclosed by Amazon in some shape or form later this year seeing how the tech giant is a publicly traded company. Graphiq itself has been operational for eight years prior to its acquisition, with the firm initially being founded as a provider of data collection and management services, allowing users to easily compare prices of various vendors and monetizing its offerings through advertisements.
Graphiq also developed a proprietary data interpretation and visualization technology that was previously used by major news outlets including Reuters and Associated Press. This particular tool may be the main motivation for Amazon's acquisition, sources speculate, with such a platform potentially being able to facilitate Alexa's process of learning new information by allowing it to sift through massive amounts of data more efficiently.