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IBM Is Using Watson to Target Start-Ups

Tickers in this article: IBM

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Staid technology giant  IBM  is fighting to regain its status as a leading innovator with Watson, its supercomputer that evaluates information more like a human than a computer, taking its cloud and cognitive technology to the doors of start-ups. 

"If you've got an idea or five -- fantastic!" said Jonas Nwuke, partner development for IBM. "We think the community would be far better at figuring out what Watson would be good at. One organization can't see it all."

Fighting back against criticism that it lags in cloud computing , the company has pushed Watson into the spotlight in the hopes that IBM can lead the pack with a new generation of apps for its Watson technology. Combining cloud and cognitive computing, IBM created the Watson Developers Cloud, a part of the IBM Watson Group, to power app innovation. IBM is taking Watson and giving it to budding start-ups who could use the artificial brainpower and who could return the favor by bringing new ideas to Big Blue.

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"It is a realization that IBM can't find the problems or all the things that Watson can solve by ourselves. So, we are looking for help building Watson applications," Nwuke said, "We are looking for partners to help provide content for other people who want to build Watson applications and we are looking for people to come and help other people realize their vision for a Watson application."

During IBM's first-quarter, cloud revenue grew 50%, with the annual run rate doubling year over year to $2.3 billion for cloud as a service.

IBM pumped $1 billion into the IBM Watson Group for the development and research related to cloud-delivered cognitive applications, and invested $100 million for venture investments to support IBM's recently launched ecosystem of start-ups and businesses that are building a new class of cognitive apps powered by IBM Watson Developers Cloud, according to a January press release.

Over 2,500 individuals and organizations have reached out to the IBM Watson Group since it released the Watson Developers Cloud in November of last year. Now, the IBM Watson group is setting its sights on "Silicon Alley" in New York.

IBM waives its ownership of the artificially intelligent technology to chosen start-ups in return for 30% of the profits upon commercial release of the application, according to Senior Adviser of Digital Strategy for IBM Watson Group, Michael DiTanna. "We sign away all of our rights," DiTanna said. "We don't normally do that."

IBM is working on various initiatives around Watson, to spur developers, including Watson Ecosystem Program, IBM Mobile First and IBM Interactive Experience. Three of the first Watson-powered apps were designed for the retail industry, finance and health care: Fluid, SharpeMind and schEMA, respectively. The schEMA app is designed by Modernizing Medicine and is due to roll-out in the fourth quarter, according to co-founder and Chief Medical Officer of Modernizing Medicine, Dr. Michael Sherling.