Spotify co-founder invests $100m into military AI
Startup Helsing: Spotify co-founder invests 100 million in military AI
Spotify co-founder Daniel Ek has put 100 million euros into the Munich start-up Helsing in a second round of financing. The company plans to use artificial intelligence (AI) to support the military in battlefield assessment operations. That comes from a tweet from Ek on Tuesday.
The money comes from the European investment company Prima Materia, which Ek founded in September 2020 to “solve the world’s greatest challenges” and “help society achieve a better future”, as it says on the Prima Materia website. Ek has invested around one billion euros of his private fortune in building up Prima Materia.
Helsing was founded in early 2021 by Gundbert Scherf, a former member of the management team in the Federal Ministry of Defense, as well as Torsten Reil, former CEO of the gaming start-up NaturalMotion, and the physicist Niklas Höhler. “Prima Materia was founded to partner with teams like Helsing’s: ambitious, ethical and driven by the mission to help build a thriving society”, Ek explained on Twitter.
Ek pursues lofty goals with his investment company. With their help, he wants to show that large digital companies can also emerge in Europe – as he has proven with Spotify. But the challenge is likely to be much greater with Helsing. Because while nice music is well received by everyone, the military application of AI might sound less good in some ears – even if Ek asserts that the AI software should be “ethically, transparently and responsibly designed”, as the Handelsblatt quotes him.
Military AI for a better world
Specifically, it is about the development of AI-supported software that is intended to support enemy reconnaissance and combat management in military operations in order to minimize wrong decisions by officers. As a basis, the AI software should recognize patterns from camera, thermal image, radar data and information from other sensors and create a situation picture that is as accurate as possible. Commanders should be able to make faster and more reliable decisions, according to the report of the Handelsblatt. Accordingly, there is a corresponding need for the NATO armed forces and thus also for the Bundeswehr, which threatens to be left behind in the global race for AI-based weapon systems – like other European armed forces.
The AI software is to be sold exclusively in European countries that stand on the feet of democracy. With a European in-house development, it is up to you to incorporate your own standards for ethics and transparency into development and to protect democracies militarily, explained Scherf, who is taking on the role of Chief Operational Officer (COO) at Helsing.
To this end, Helsing wants to position itself internationally and, in addition to its Munich location, also maintain branches in Great Britain and France. There should be enough money and the desired independent development of the software from public donors. In addition to Ek, the founders of the online fashion retailer Zalando had already invested and, together with other investors, put 8.5 million euros into the company in an initial financing round. Also in the current financing round, investors from the very beginning have contributed 2.5 million euros, it is said.
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Published in Technology