Oren Etzioni stepping down as CEO of Allen Institute for AI after nine years at research hub – GeekWire

Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. (GeekWire File Photo)

Oren Etzioni, the founding CEO of Seattle’s Allen Institute for AI, is stepping down from the artificial intelligence research organization he helped launch nearly nine years ago.

A renowned expert in the field of AI, Etzioni teamed with the late Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen to launch AI2 in January 2014.

“It has been an honor of a lifetime to help build and lead such an incredible organization as its founding CEO,” Etzioni said in a news release shared with GeekWire on Wednesday. “I want to thank Paul Allen for giving me the opportunity to serve in this role, and I want to thank the dedicated AI2 team who gave life to a vision and who are serving the world through their work.”

Etzioni will continue to serve as CEO until Sept. 30, and will then continue as a board member and advisor. He will also take the position of technical director of the AI2 Incubator.

Etzioni was unavailable for comment.

Under Etzioni’s leadership, AI2 grew to more than 200 employees, including researchers and engineers working across several domains of AI in service of the “common good” of humanity. Researchers have published close to 700 papers during that time.

Allen Institute of Artificial Intelligence CEO Oren Etzioni, left, and AI expert and executive Shivon Zilis talk artificial intelligence at the 2016 GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire File Photo / Dan DeLong)

The AI2 Incubator is a startup incubator which leverages AI2’s technical expertise and industry connections to help entrepreneurs build “AI first” companies. It has spun out 19 companies over the last six years with a collective valuation of $767 million, $164 million in venture funding, and 500 jobs created.

“I feel like the incubator is on this tremendous growth path,” Etzioni told GeekWire recently.

A professor emeritus at the University of Washington, where he was a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering for more than 20 years, Etzioni is also a serial entrepreneur and startup founder. He has been a partner at Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group for more than 22 years.

Ana Mari Cauce, AI2 board member and president of the University of Washington, credited Etzioni with building AI2 into a “research powerhouse.”

“His legacy includes a commitment to nurturing an inclusive, collaborative culture that attracts and develops highly talented scientists and allows them to thrive,” Cauce said in a statement. “As we enter AI2’s next chapter, we are energized by the impact AI2 will continue to have around the world, and the promise AI holds to benefit people everywhere.”

Etzioni helped pioneer meta-search, online comparison shopping, machine reading, and Open Information Extraction. As a highly published author, his expertise spans the fundamentals of AI research, trustworthy AI and ethics, AI governance and regulation, progress toward artificial general intelligence, AI and workforce implications, and more.

“AI2 is a perfect reflection of Oren Etzioni, its leader all these years — a visionary researcher who leads with common sense and tremendous empathy for the role that technology can play in helping people around the world,” said Peter Lee, an AI2 board member and corporate vice president at Microsoft.

The AI2 board is convening a search committee to find the next CEO.