The top 20 most valuable AI startups, from Palantir to Waymo

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The top 20 most valuable AI startups, from Palantir to Waymo

  • A list of the 20 most valuable venture-backed companies in artificial intelligence boasts a combined valuation of some $120 billion.
  • Most of the list are privately-held startups; some of them — namely Waymo and Uber Advanced Technology Group — are subsidiaries of much larger companies, but that are said to be eyeing IPOs of their own.
  • Investment remains robust despite an uncertain economy, a reflection of the great potential of AI innovation, analysts say. 
  • Seven of the 20 make autonomous car technology, a challenging field that will require time to mature. 
  • Other technologies on the list include AI applications to farming, data management, hiring, and writing. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In an uncertain economy where valuations are slipping, the 20 highest-valued venture-backed companies in artificial intelligence combined are worth about a staggering $120 billion, according to PitchBook, in a reflection of the promising innovation of the sector.

To put it in perspective, these 20 young companies — many that have yet to produce actual products — are worth more than Ford, American Express, and US Steel combined. 

Top startups also continue to close major fundraising rounds and command multi-billion valuations for technology ranging from automation tools to self-driving cars. And despite the economic headwinds caused by the coronavirus pandemic, expert studies and venture capitalists say the market remains steady. 

“All the fundamental parts of the innovation cycle that have AI broadly employed in it are somewhat untouched by a COVID-like pandemic scenario,” said Rohit Sharma, a partner at early stage VC firm True Ventures. “We don’t really see a slowdown or any kind of impact.” 

But there are obstacles ahead for even the most valuable startups. Seven of the 20 top, according to data provided by PitchBook, are builders of self-driving car technology, which experts say is a sector that demands capital and patience — two things that could be in shorter supply in a jittery recession. 

“A lot of the business case assumptions and model assumptions, historically, have started to fall apart as people really started to realize just how challenging this robo-taxi problem really is,” Austin Russell, CEO of Luminar, told Business Insider’s Troy Wolverton recently. 

Most of the companies on this list are relatively small, independently-held startups.

Notably, however, a few of the companies on PitchBook’s list are independent subsidiaries of larger organizations — at the top of the list is Waymo, which began as Google’s self-driving car unit, and is now reportedly mulling a public offering at some point in the future after raising venture cash all its own.

Joining Waymo is Uber’s own autonomous vehicle division – a separate entity from the ride-sharing firm with its own CEO and IPO possibilities. And Zoox may be the poster child for how challenging the market can be. Amazon reportedly bought the firm for far less than its previous valuation. 

Beyond the parking lot of autonomous cars are a variety of interesting companies, all using the tech in different ways. The one thing they have in common, however, is they are backed by wealth many other of tech would  envy.

Big-data company Palantir is beginning the process to go public. Other standouts on the list include AI farming startup Indigo Ag, hiring firm Checkr, and AI writing company Grammarly. 

All valuation data is from PitchBook. All companies asked to verify valuation, and where they did it is noted. 

Business Insider unpacked the top 20 most valuable, VC-backed AI companies below:

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