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Google Machine Learning Competition Offers Millions for Startups

The cloud-based startup competition includes backing from some big Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

Google is offering prizes worth more than $2 million — including cloud credits and investment opportunities — for startups using machine learning for enterprise and business software.

The Web giant opened applications for the Machine Learning Startup Competition on March 10, and will stop accepting applications April 16. It’s casting a wide net for the competition — “any and all industries,” according to its website — and will select finalists in June.

Companies in the gov tech space are tinkering with machine learning for a lot of potential uses. Machine learning, or the use of algorithms that “learn” to identify or process data based on past examples, could help set up citizen-serving digital assistants, identify structural deficiencies in photos of bridges, or even predict traffic accidents and congestion.

The Google competition has backing from some big names in venture capital, including Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners and Sequoia Capital. The investment partners, which will each offer up to $500,000 to a competition winner, are Emergence Capital and Data Collective.

On top of that, one grand prize winner will get $1 million in Google Cloud Platform credits, technical support from Google and 10 licenses for the company’s cloud application suite. A runner-up will get $500,000 in cloud credits, as well as the tech support and licenses. All other finalists will get $200,000 in cloud credits plus the licenses.

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.