ServiceNow acquires artificial intelligence startup Element AI

Element AI is an AI software provider founded by machine learning pioneers including Yoshua Bengio and funded by the likes of Microsoft, Nvidia, Intel and Tencent.

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ServiceNow said Monday that it's buying Canadian artificial intelligence startup Element AI, with the aim of expanding the AI capabilities within its Now Platform. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Based in Montreal, Element AI is an AI software provider founded by machine learning pioneers including Yoshua Bengio and funded by the likes of Microsoft, Nvidia, Intel and Tencent. By acquiring Element AI, ServiceNow said it will create of a new global AI Innovation Hub in Canada and gain key AI talent that will help the company build out its technology and expertise. 

Most of the focus is on expanding ServiceNow's Now Platform, which aims to help enterprises integrate legacy systems and refine enterprise workflows and processes. ServiceNow said it will use Element's AI technology to offer intelligent workflows that allow employees "to work smarter and faster, streamline business decisions, and unlock new levels of productivity." 

"With Element AI's powerful capabilities and world class talent, ServiceNow will empower employees and customers to focus on areas where only humans excel – creative thinking, customer interactions, and unpredictable work," said ServiceNow Chief AI Officer Vijay Narayanan. "That's a smarter way to workflow."

Element AI functions somewhat like a consulting firm, helping enterprises with limited AI experience deploy AI capabilities quickly without needing to build a dedicated internal team. The company has also worked to develop AI algorithms that any organization can simply plug in to their datasets to generate insights.

ServiceNow, which is led by former SAP chief executive Bill McDermott, said its purchase of Element AI is one of its most significant acquisitions to date and the latest in a string of recent investments to fill in key product gaps and infuse AI into the Now Platform. Element AI is ServiceNow's fourth AI acquisition in 2020, following its purchases of Loom Systems, Passage AI, and Sweagle.

In January the company acquired Passage AI, a conversational AI company that can support non-English chat bots, and integrated it into its Now Platform. The Loom deal was the first acquisition for ServiceNow under the leadership of McDermott. That deal was meant to help ServiceNow extend its AIOps capabilities and build out its IT service management (ITSM) platform. In June ServiceNow acquired Sweagle, a configuration data management company based in Belgium.

ServiceNow said Yoshua Bengio will serve as a technical advisor to the company when the Element deal closes sometime in early 2021.