David Ferrucci, the artificial intelligence (AI) researcher who led the team behind IBM Watson’s development — the question-answering supercomputer developed by IBM — has raised nearly $60 million for his Elemental Cognition AI startup.

According to a submission on Aug. 17, the company has finalized equity sales amounting to $59.95 million from 17 investors, with additional plans to secure $5.75 million in funding.

Based in the Helmsley Building in New York, Elemental aims to create AI with advanced reasoning capabilities. The company provides two enterprise chatbot solutions, Cogent and Cora, which are tailored for diverse applications, including finance, interactive travel planning and scientific research automation.

Elemental Cognition highlights its distinctive hybrid AI platform, which integrates large language models (LLMs) with an AI-driven reasoning engine to enhance precision and controlled responses. Although Elemental’s website doesn’t prominently feature generative AI, its LinkedIn profile states that the company, 

“provides a revolutionary Generative AI platform with superior natural language understanding that powers expert problem-solving intelligence and research & discovery applications.”

Among Elemental Cognition’s leadership team are former executives of IBM and Bridgewater, including David Shepler, Eric Brown and Mike Barborak. The company also includes notable investors and advisers like Jim Breyer, Sam Palmisano, Greg Jensen and Geoff Yang.

Ferrucci spent 18 years at IBM and was also the director of applied AI at Bridgewater Associates. He led the IBM Watson team from 2006 to 2012, highlighted by Watson’s victory on the television game show Jeopardy! showcasing its ability to understand and process natural language.

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Despite its initial promise, IBM Watson proved to be an unprofitable endeavor. In 2020, IBM divested its Watson Health unit to Francisco Partners. More recently, IBM introduced WatsonX, a studio aimed at training and deploying machine learning models.

Growing investor enthusiasm for AI startups has been spurred by the popularity of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Elemental Cognition aims to offer advanced generative AI functionalities, boasting superior natural language comprehension for problem-solving and research applications.

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