Artificial intelligence’s potential to revolutionize our lives is attracting record amounts of cash.

Last year, 1,356 AI-related startups in the U.S. raised a record $18.5 billion, according to the National Venture Capital Association. That was more than the $16.8 billion raised by 1,281 companies a year earlier.

Investors’ appetites for anything AI is growing as industries from finance to healthcare to manufacturing and education turn to technology and machine learning to update their business models. The increase in AI investments helped fuel the more than $300 billion that was raised by U.S. private equity across some 5,100 deals last year, according to Pitchbook’s 2019 Annual U.S. PE Breakdown report.

One of December’s deals illustrates how AI startups are being seen upending old ways of doing business.

Evisort, an AI-powered contract intelligence system, can read and understand the meaning in legal documents like sales contracts and vendor paperwork. The San mateo, California-based company closed a $15 million Series A funding round led by Vertex Ventures and M12, Microsoft’s venture fund. Also investing were Amity Ventures and Serra Ventures.

Because the system automates the tedious work of reviewing, assessing, approving, and tracking any legal documents, “this elegant and simple use of powerful AI algorithms can impact a company’s bottom line,” In Sik Rhee, general partner of Vertex Ventures, said in a statement.

Early indications are that investors will continue to look to AI-related startups this year.

Cardiologs, for instance, announced this month that it $15 million in Series A funding, led by Paris-based venture capital firm Alven. The Boston-based company focused on AI cardiology diagnostics has raised more than $25 million, with backers including Bpifrance, ISAI, Kurma Diagnostics, Idinvest Partners and the Paris Saclay Seed Fund.

The Allen Institute AI Incubator for early-stage AI startups said it received $10 million in funds from investors including Sequoia Capital, Kleiner Perkins, Madrona Venture Group, and Two Sigma Ventures. The Seattle-based incubator opened in 2017 with plans of launching as many as five AI startups a year, tapping into the city’s tech and  .
startup boom. 

  • Pitchbook has predicted that overall PE fundraising will likely dip in 2020, in part because so many large funds closed last year. Even so, this year likely will reach the $200 billion mark, according to the report.