DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman, who recently left his role as vice president of AI product management and AI policy at Google, also co-founded machine learning startup Inflection AI. Suleyman has already hired several of his former colleagues.
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Artificial intelligence gurus are stepping down from top roles at companies like Google, Meta, OpenAI and DeepMind and joining a new generation of startups looking to take AI to the next level, according to people familiar with the matter and analysis from the LinkedIn.
Four of the best-funded new AI startups – Inflection, Cohere, Adept and Anthropic – have recently recruited dozens of AI scientists with Big Tech experience.
Their hiring efforts are being fueled by venture capital firms and billionaires keen to cash in on whatever success they have. Collectively, these companies have raised over $1 billion and are using these vast war chests to steal talented individuals who are paid high salaries from their previous employers.
Startups are building their products and services with a relatively new “architecture”, which is a set of rules and methods used to describe the functionality, organization and implementation of a computer system.
The new architecture – developed by a team at Google in 2017 and now available for anyone to use – is known as “transformer”.
The transformer allows AI systems to scale in ways never before considered, which means it is possible to make them much more powerful and capable.
“When you started to scale up these models, the capabilities grew in a way that I don’t think anyone anticipated,” Cohere CEO Aidan Gomez told CNBC. “It was like a total shock.”
OpenAI’s GPT-3 and Dalle-E, Google’s Bert, and DeepMind’s AlphaFold and AlphaStar are examples of innovative AI systems that are underpinned by a transformer.
Launched in March, Inflection AI has already raised more than $225 million despite having fewer than 10 employees, according to LinkedIn.
Based in California, the company’s goal is to develop AI software products that facilitate communication between humans and computers.
It is led by DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman, who recently left his role as vice president of AI product management and AI policy at Google. LinkedIn billionaire Reid Hoffman and former DeepMind researcher Karen Simonyan are the other co-founders.
Suleyman has already hired several of his former colleagues.
Former DeepMinder Heinrich Kuttler left his role as research engineering manager at Meta AI in London in March to become a member of Inflection’s founding team, working on the technical side of the business, according to his LinkedIn page. Elsewhere, Joe Fenton left his senior product manager role at Google in February as well to become a member of Inflection’s founding team, working on the product side of the business.
More recently, Rewon Child, a former researcher at Google Brain and OpenAI, joined Inflection as a member of the technical team. Inflection also hired Maarten Bosma, who was previously a research engineer at Google.
Meta and Google did not respond to a request for comment from CNBC.
One of Inflection’s best-known investors is Greylock Partners, a renowned Silicon Valley venture capital firm that has placed early bets on companies such as Facebook (now Meta) and Airbnb. Hoffman and Suleyman are partners in the firm.
In a call with CNBC in March, Suleyman said, “If you think about the history of computing, we’ve always tried to reduce the complexity of our ideas to communicating them to a machine.”
He added, “Even when we write a search query, we are simplifying, reducing, or writing in shorthand so that the search engine can understand what we want.”
When humans want to control a computer, they need to learn a programming language to provide instructions, he added, or use a mouse to navigate and interact with things on the screen. “These are all ways to simplify our ideas and reduce their complexity and, in a way, their creativity and their uniqueness to get a machine to do something,” Suleyman said.
The British businessman said that a new set of technologies that Inflection plans to develop will allow anyone to speak to a computer in plain language. It is still unclear who Inflection will sell its products to, at what price and when.
Inflection is competing for talent with Cohere, founded in Toronto in 2019 by Aidan Gomez, Ivan Zhang and Nick Frostt.
Cohere, which has raised about $170 million from companies like Index Ventures and Tiger Global, wants to create an interface that allows software developers to use complicated AI technology in their applications.
This AI technology, known as natural language processing, or NLP, should enable developers to deploy new features and services into their software products.
“We want to build this toolkit that is accessible to any developer,” CEO Gomez told CNBC in a call.
AI luminaries and DeepMind alumni Ed Grefenstette and Phil Blunsom are among the latest AI scientists to join Cohere, with the duo announcing last month that they have joined the company.
Grefenstette is the head of machine learning at Cohere and Blunsom is the company’s chief scientist.
They will also be responsible for helping set up a new Cohere office in London, which has become a hotbed of AI talent over the past decade. In fact, DeepMind now employs over a thousand people in the city, many of them PhDs.
They will likely be able to tap into promising potential recruits from two of the UK’s top universities. Grefenstette is an honorary professor at UCL, while Blunsom is a professor at Oxford.
Another company making waves is Anthropic, led by former OpenAI Research Vice President Dario Amodei.
Anthropic describes itself as an AI security and research company. He says he wants to build “reliable, interpretable and steerable AI systems”.
Amodei set up the company with the help of several other former OpenAI employees, including Jack Clark, Tom Brown, Sam McCandlish and his sister Daniela Amodei.
It launched in 2021 and announced that it had secured $124 million from a cohort of investors, including Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
In April, the company announced that it had raised an additional $580 million and, according to LinkedIn, now has 41 employees.
Another AI start-up that has been built by some heavyweights in the machine learning field is Adept AI Labs.
Co-founders include CEO David Luan (formerly Director of Google Research and Vice President of Engineering at OpenAI), Niki Parmar (Former Research Scientist on the Google Brain Team) and Ashish Vaswani (also Research Scientist on the Google Brain Team). ).
The San Francisco-based company, which is just a few months old and has raised $65 million, is on a mission to build general intelligence that allows humans to work together creatively.
He wants to create a kind of AI assistant that workers can collaborate with to solve almost anything together. While this tool is initially focused on productivity, the company hopes that everyone will be able to use its AI technology in the medium term.