Artificial intelligence gurus are leaving Big Tech to work on exciting new start-ups

DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman, who recently stepped down from his role as vice president of product management and artificial intelligence at Google, also co-founded machine learning start-up Inflection AI. Suleyman has already hired many of his former colleagues.

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Artificial intelligence gurus are leaving top jobs at companies like Google, HalfOpenAI and DeepMind and joining a new generation of startups who want to take AI to the next level, according to people familiar with LinkedIn’s subject matter and analytics.

Four of the best-funded new AI startups – Inflection, Cohere, Adept, and Anthropic – recently borrowed dozens of AI scientists with a background in Big Tech.

Their hiring efforts are fueled by venture capital firms and billionaires eager to cash in on whatever success they are. Collectively, these companies have raised over $ 1 billion and are using these vast war chests to rob talented individuals who command high salaries from their former employers.

Start-ups 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 Google team in 2017 and now available to everyone, is known as the “transformer”.

The transformer allows artificial intelligence systems to be scaled down in ways that have never been considered before, which means it is possible to make them much more powerful and capable.

“When you started ramping up these models, the capabilities grew in a way that I don’t think anyone had anticipated,” Cohere CEO Aidan Gomez told CNBC. “It was like a total shock.”

GPT-3 and Dalle-E from OpenAI, Bert from Google, and AlphaFold and AlphaStar from DeepMind are all examples of revolutionary AI systems supported by a transformer.

Launched in March, Inflection AI has already done so raised over $ 225 million despite having fewer than 10 employees, according to LinkedIn.

Headquartered in California, the company’s goal is to develop artificial intelligence software products that simplify communication between humans and computers.

It is led by DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman, who recently stepped down from his role as Vice President of Product Management and Artificial Intelligence Policy at Google. LinkedIn billionaire Reid Hoffman and former DeepMind researcher Karen Simonyan are the other co-founders.

Suleyman has already hired many of his former colleagues.

Former DeepMinder Heinrich Kuttler left his role as head of research engineering at Meta AI in London in March to become a member of Inflection’s founding team, working on the technical side of the company, according to his LinkedIn page. Elsewhere, Joe Fenton left his role as a senior product manager at Google in February to also become a member of Inflection’s founding team, working on the product side of the company.

More recently, Rewon Child, a former Google Brain and OpenAI researcher, joined Inflection as a member of the technical staff. Inflection also hired Maarten Bosma, who was previously a research engineer at Google.

Meta and Google did not respond to a CNBC request for comment.

One of Inflection’s best-known investors is Greylock Partners, a renowned venture capital firm in Silicon Valley that made its first bets on Facebook (now Meta) and Airbnb. Hoffman and Suleyman are partners in the company.

In a phone call with CNBC in March, Suleyman said, “When you think about the history of computing, we’ve always tried to reduce the complexity of our ideas to communicate them to a machine.”

He added: “Even when we write a search query, we simplify, reduce or shorten so that the search engine can understand what we want.”

When humans want to control a computer, they must learn a programming language to provide instructions, he added, or use a mouse to navigate and interact with things on the screen. “All of these are ways we simplify our ideas and reduce their complexity and somehow their creativity and uniqueness to get a machine to do something,” Suleyman said.

The British entrepreneur said a new suite of technologies that Inflection will aim to develop will eventually allow anyone to speak to a computer in plain language. At this stage it is unclear to whom Inflection will sell its products, at what price and when.

Inflection is competing for talent with Cohere, founded in Toronto in 2019 by Aidan Gomez, Ivan Zhang and Nick Frosst.

Cohere, which has raised about $ 170 million from the likes of Index Ventures and Tiger Global, wants to create an interface that allows software developers to use complicated AI technology on their apps.

This artificial intelligence technology, known as natural language processing or NLP, is expected to allow developers to implement new features and services in their software products.

“We want to create that toolkit that is accessible to any developer,” CEO Gomez told CNBC during 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 Cohere’s head of machine learning 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 for AI talent over the past decade. In fact, DeepMind now employs over a thousand people in the city, many of them PhD students.

They will likely be able to track down promising potential recruits from two of the UK’s leading universities. Grefenstette is honorary professor at UCL, while Blunsom is professor at Oxford.

Another company that is causing a stir is Anthropic, led by former OpenAI vice president of research, Dario Amodei.

Anthropic describes itself as an AI research and security company. He says he wants to build “reliable, interpretable and orientable artificial intelligence systems”.

Amodei founded 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 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 raised an additional $ 580 million and, according to LinkedIn, now has 41 employees.

Another artificial intelligence start-up that has been built by some heavy-handed gamers in the field of machine learning is Adept AI Labs.

Co-founders include CEO David Luan (formerly director of Google Research and VP of Engineering at OpenAI), Niki Parmar (former Google Brain staff researcher) and Ashish Vaswani (also Google Brain staff researcher).

The San Francisco-based company, which is only a few months old and raised $ 65 million, has a mission to develop a general intelligence that allows humans to work together creatively.

He wants to create some sort of AI assistant that workers can collaborate with to solve almost everything together. While this tool will initially focus on productivity, the company hopes everyone can use its AI technology in the medium term.

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