BenevolentAI founder allays fears of a robot takeover as the Woodford-backed firm reels in $115m

Courtney Goldsmith
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BenevolentAI is backed by Neil Woodford's fund (Source: BenevolentAI)

The founder of artificial intelligence (AI) startup BenevolentAI believes robots will be able to exist in a symbiotic relationship with humans, refuting the idea that they will replace all jobs, as the company's valuation soared to $2bn (£1.4bn).

Speaking to City A.M., Ken Mulvany said AI will "multiply the power of our intellect" in the same way the steam engine multiplied our physical power, adding that humans will need to work with robots to produce the best outcomes.

"We see that with our own [technology]," Mulvany said.

Read more: Facebook's poached an expert from a UK startup to lead its AI efforts

BenevolentAI, an AI-enabled drug development company, will today announce it has raised $115m (£80.9m) from new and existing investors, putting the firm at a pre-money valuation of $2bn, in one of the largest funding rounds in its emerging sector.

The firm said the majority of investors were from the US as it expands its global footprint, but BenevolentAI was also supported by existing investors like Woodford Investment Management.

A large portion of the funds raised will go towards the continued development of the company's drug pipeline. Having brought 22 drug candidate programmes through development using its bioscience machine brain, which uses algorithms to discover new medicines and cures for diseases, Mulvany said he hopes to double that number.

Another chunk will fund the expansion of the BenevolentAI team, which has essentially doubled every year since it was founded in 2013 as the startup quickly expands. With about 165 employees at offices in London, new York and Belgium, Mulvany said he sees the company employing 300 people by the end of the year.

Mulvany noted the company's tech is relatively transferrable, and said the firm is eyeing up opportunities in other industries like energy storage and agriculture.

Read more: Digital Innovators: Q&A with BenevolentAI founder Ken Mulvany