Artificial intelligence Startups Venture

Eye On AI: Big Tech Continues To Invest In AI Startups, But For How Long?

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This column is a look back at the week that was in AI. Read the previous one here.

Although there continues to be a lot of talk about investors pulling back in the AI market, the big news of the week thus far has been the massive $487 million investment Mistral AI received at a reported valuation of $2 billion.

The round also reminded us of who is investing — big corporates.

While Andreessen Horowitz — which is expected to invest more than $200 million — did lead the round, both Nvidia and Salesforce 1 agreed to contribute about $130 million in convertible debt to the deal.

Chip giant Nvidia has made 18 different deals into AI and AI-related startups this year per Crunchbase data. That includes 16 deals that were $100 million or more — such as rounds for Inflection AI, Databricks and Adept AI.

Salesforce’s venture arm — Salesforce Ventures — has taken part in a baker’s dozen of deals, per Crunchbase data. Those deals include Anthropic’s $450 million Series C and Cohere’s $270 million round in May.

Of course, those are not the only two big tech giants pouring money into the space. Microsoft has invested in eight startups related to the AI space, according to Crunchbase data. Its $10 billion deal with OpenAI is the biggest round of the year in any sector.

Google made big headlines last week with its delayed unveiling of Gemini AI, but it’s been making headlines all year with its investment deals in AI startups.

The Mountain View, California-based search and cloud giant has made 16 deals in the AI space involving VC-backed startups, according to Crunchbase data. That includes a handful of big rounds for Anthropic (which totaled more than $1.2 billion in funding) and a $235 million round for open source AI startup Hugging Face.

One of Google’s venture arms — GV — itself has made another 13 deals in the space, per Crunchbase data.

Of course it isn’t unusual for large strategics to invest in young startups, keeping an eye on innovation and, of course, competition. This is especially true in AI, where startups need expensive computing power, data, talent and other resources in order to be successful — all things big tech can supply.

However, it also was just last week when reports broke that the Federal Trade Commission is looking at Microsoft’s investment in OpenAI and whether it may violate antitrust laws.

While clearly the vast majority of these deals will not be combed through by regulators, it is interesting to note some are looking at big tech’s role in nurturing AI technology — in which they all have invested very heavily.

Things that caught our eye and other stuff:

  • Speaking of big corporate backing. Essential AI announced this week it had raised $56.5 million in new funding led by March Capital. However, it also included participation from Advanced Micro Devices, Google, Nvidia and others. The company is attempting to use AI to automate monotonous corporate tasks. The company is calling its technology the “Enterprise Brain.”
  • When Altman Capital invests in an AI startup, it’s hard not to take notice. Vancouver-based Durable raised a $14 Million in Series A led by Spark Capital, with Sam Altman’s VC firm participating among others. The company is an AI-powered website builder and small business platform. While we typically associate AI with large enterprises, it is interesting to see a startup bringing it downstream.
  • Finally, San Francisco-based Chalk raised $10 million in a seed round from General Catalyst, Unusual Ventures and Xfund. What makes the round interesting is that the startup is developing a machine-learning platform that allows AI developers to fetch fresh data quickly, going head-to-head with one of the most valuable private companies in the world, Databricks.

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Illustration: Dom Guzman

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  1. Salesforce Ventures is an investor in Crunchbase. They have no say in our editorial process. For more, head here.


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