Andrew Ng, the former chief scientist of Baidu, announced his next venture, Deeplearning.ai, with only a logo, a domain name and a footnote pointing to an August launch date. In an interesting twist, the Deeplearning.ai domain name appears to be registered to Baidu’s Sunnyvale AI research campus — the same office Ng would have worked out of as an employee.
It’s unclear whether Ng began his work on Deeplearning.ai while still an employee at Baidu. According to data pulled from the Wayback Machine, the domain was parked at Instra and picked up sometime between 2015 and 2017.
Registering that domain to Baidu accidentally would be an amateur mistake and registering it intentionally just leaves me with more unanswered questions. I’m left wondering about the relationship between Baidu and Deeplearning.ai — and its connection to Andrew Ng’s departure. Of course, it’s also possible that there was some sort of error that caused an untimely mistake.
UPDATE: Baidu provided us the following response.
“Baidu has no association with this project but we wish Andrew the best in his work.”
Ng left the company in late March of this year, promising to continue his work of bringing the benefits of AI to everyone. Baidu is known for having unique technical expertise in natural language processing and it’s recently been putting resources into self-driving cars and other specific deep learning applications.
It makes sense that Ng would take advantage of his name recognition to raise a large round to maximize his impact on the machine intelligence ecosystem. I can’t see a general name like Deeplearning.ai being used to sell a self-driving car company or a verticalized enterprise tool. It’s more likely that Ng is building an enabling technology that aims to become critical infrastructure to support the adoption of AI technologies.
While this could technically encompass specialized hardware chips for deep learning, I’m more inclined to bet that it is a software solution given Ng’s expertise. Google CEO Sundar Pichai made a splash back at I/O last month when he discussed AutoML — the company’s research work to automate the design process of neural networks. If I was going to come up with a name for a company that would build on, and ultimately commercialize, this technology, it would be Deeplearning.ai.
“This is super speculative, but I think it might be an AI tool to help generate AI training data sets or something else that will accelerate the development of AI models and products,” Malika Cantor, partner at AI investment firm Comet Labs told me. “I’m very excited about having more tools and platforms to support the AI ecosystem.”
Prior to his time at Baidu, Ng was instrumental in building out the Google Brain Team, one of the company’s core AI research groups. Ng is a highly respected researcher and evangelist in the AI space with connections spanning industries and geographic borders. If Ng truly believes that AI is the new electricity, he will surely try to position Deeplearning.ai to take advantage of the windfall.
We’ve reached out to both Baidu and Andrew Ng and will update this post if we receive additional information.