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Eye On AI: Valuations Are Not Slowing Down

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

While there have been some predictions of a slowdown in venture dollars as it concerns generative AI startups, so far that does not seem to be bearing out — and we got another example this week.

Voice AI startup ElevenLabs raised an $80 million Series B at what it called a “unicorn valuation,” though the company did not disclose an exact dollar figure. The new valuation represents a 10x jump from a Series A just last June that gave the startup a much more modest $99 million post-money valuation.

Of course this comes just about a month after it was reported another AI startup, Anthropic, was in discussions to raise $750 million in a funding round led by Menlo Ventures at a valuation of up to $18.4 billion. The San Francisco-based OpenAI rival had just raised a $300 million round at a pre-investment valuation of $4.1 billion in March — meaning a 4.5x valuation jump in just about nine months.

Finally, reports also surfaced last week that Toronto-based Cohere is in discussions to raise between $500 million and $1 billion at a “significantly higher” valuation than the $2.2 billion it hit just last June when it raised a $270 million Series C led by Inovia Capital.

Based on the reports for Anthropic’s raise, would it be out of the question if this new round will value the company northward of $10 billion?

Those jumps make OpenAI’s 2.75x valuation jump for its reported secondary offering seem almost quaint.

While AI funding certainly hasn’t rocketed this year compared to last — so far only about $1.2 billion in funding has been announced in 2024, according to Crunchbase, compared to the more than $50 billion last year  — the early returns when looking at valuation jumps seem to indicate investors’ appetites for AI have not been sated in the least.

There’s no denying many of these huge rounds are going to some of the marquee names in generative AI — but when a 4x, 6x or 10x valuation jump in less than a year occurs, it should sound some alarms based on what we’ve seen for the past two years and all the mistakes VCs claim they have learned from in that time.

Perhaps it’ll work out this time in AI — unlike it did in crypto, Web3, logistics and so many other sectors.

Things that caught our eye and other stuff:

  • There is no doubt the weather is causing more and more problems in our daily lives. Well, maybe AI can help with that too. San Jose, California-based AiDash, a SaaS startup helping infrastructure companies be more climate-resilient and sustainable with satellites and AI, raised a $50 million Series C led by Lightrock. AiDash uses satellites and AI to help electric, gas, construction and other companies identify vegetation risks that could damage their assets and cause outages through storms, flooding and fire.
  • Another industry where many may not think AI could help is construction, but there’s Briq. The Santa Barbara, California-based startup, which has created a platform that allows departments of a construction company to automate financial workflows, raised an $8 million extension of its Tiger Global-led Series B back in 2021. The company is able to automate the financial process of construction companies through its proprietary generative automation bots. The new round reportedly values the firm at $150 million.

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Illustration: Dom Guzman


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