The UK’s AI journey – this is just the beginning Portfolio News • Published 2016/06/26

With the news today that Twitter acquired Magic Pony Technology, the British AI company which came through the Entrepreneur First programme in 2015, it is now clear – the UK is fast becoming the established home of best-in-show AI technology.

magic pony technology founders
Magic Pony Technology co-founders Zehan Wang and Rob Bishop


Coming just months after the sale of AI language input app SwiftKey to Microsoft, Magic Pony is the latest in a series of exciting fast-growth UK businesses pushing the boundaries of AI and then piquing the interest of the world’s biggest and most forward thinking technology companies. From the 2014 Google acquisitions of DeepMind, Dark Blue Labs and Vision Factory, to the 2015 Apple acquisition of Cambridge technology company VocalIQ, in recent years the UK has been gaining a reputation as the go-to place for US companies looking to buy AI technology.

Then there are the businesses Octopus has had the privilege of working with. Our own AI experience kicked off in 2008, when we first backed Evi (then TrueKnowledge.com). In 2012 Amazon purchased the natural language answer engine which now provides the technology behind Amazon’s Echo. We also started working with SwiftKey way back in 2010, when AI focused on the application of natural language was still a little known area of research. Earlier this year, less than 6 years after meeting founders Ben Medlock and Jon Reynolds, SwiftKey was acquired by technology giant Microsoft – and we watch with eager excitement as to where this will take SwiftKey’s technology next.

And now with the purchase of Magic Pony by Twitter – a team we have been fortunate to work with for the past 14 months since meeting them through the fantastic Entrepreneur First programme – we are entering the next phase in the UK’s exciting AI journey.

These companies all have one thing in common – that is their dedication to undertaking fundamental research into the applications of AI and machine learning. This desire to push boundaries is the reason Octopus was so excited to work with all three businesses – and surely plays a big role in making them so interesting to global technology acquirers.

So what next for the UK’s burgeoning AI scene? Good news stories like these mean the world’s AI talent will continue to look to the UK for inspiration in how AI can be successfully commercialized. This means more AI talent, more funding for these businesses and more experienced people to help nurture the ecosystem.

As for us? We look forward to taking what we have learnt on the last three journeys and helping the next generation of entrepreneurs lead the way in the AI revolution.

This article is issued by Octopus Investments Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Personal opinions may change and should not be seen as advice or a recommendation. The value of an investment, and any income from it, could fall or rise. Investors may not get back the full amount invested. We do not offer investment or tax advice. We recommend investors seek professional advice before deciding to invest. Registered office: 33 Holborn, London, EC1N 2HT. Registered in England and Wales No. 03942880. Issued: June 2016