TOKYO — Preferred Networks, a Japanese artificial intelligence startup, is looking for new lines of business. Although the company enjoys backing from a number of big names in Japan, its latest move is motivated by its founder’s growing unease over how long it is taking to develop practical uses for its technology.
Preferred Networks was worth an estimated 351.5 billion yen ($3.33 billion) at the end of September last year, making the Tokyo-based company Japan’s most valuable “unicorn,” according to the Next Unicorn survey published by Nikkei. A unicorn is an unlisted company with a valuation of $1 billion or more.
CEO Toru Nishikawa set up a company in 2006 called Preferred Infrastructure while he was in graduate school at the University of Tokyo. The search engine developer spun off its deep-learning business in 2014, which became Preferred Networks.
Few of the startup’s businesses have turned a profit so far, but its advanced deep learning and other AI technologies have raised its corporate value.