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AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Google has launched a new venture capital program focused on artificial intelligence, Axios has learned from multiple sources.

Why it matters: Google has never before had an investment effort aimed at a specific type of technology. Plus, this will be led by engineers, rather than by professional venture capitalists.

Details: The effort is being led by Anna Patterson, a longtime Google VP of engineering who specializes in AI. Also involved is Ankit Jain, who returned to Google's engineering department last month after having served as VP of product at SimilarWeb (which had acquired his startup, Quettra). Other Google AI engineers also are expected to rotate through the program, which is designed to provide startups with hands-on mentorship and, in some cases, incubation space and services. Patterson will report up through Google, rather than through Alphabet (unlike leadership of Google Ventures and growth equity group CapitalG).

Deal plans: Word is that the group is seeking to make relatively small investments, having spoken to entrepreneurs and outside VCs about check sizes of between $1 million and $10 million. If the opportunity is right, the new program may co-invest with Google Ventures.

A Google spokeswoman declined comment.

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: First known U.S. case of Omicron variant identified in California — America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron — CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers.
  2. Politics: Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come — Meta removes accounts linked to COVID disinformation effort by China.
  3. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
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U.S. faces urgent anti-hacker crisis

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The Biden administration is accelerating efforts to fill nearly 600,000 vacant cybersecurity positions in the public and private sectors bogging down efforts to protect digital infrastructure.

Why it matters: Following a deluge of ransomware attacks targeting critical government and corporate infrastructure this year, clogs in the talent pipeline are leaving federal, cash-strapped local governments and Big Business even more susceptible to hacking.

Mike Allen, author of AM
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Peng Shuai of China serves during the China Open in Beijing in 2017. Photo: Andy Wong/AP

The women's professional tennis tour suspended tournaments in China Wednesday out of concern for Peng Shuai, on the same day that a top business voice made excuses for Beijing.

Why it matters: Ahead of February's Winter Olympics in Beijing, some sports figures are taking on the regime — while Big Business shrinks from confrontation with the world's second-largest economy.