Inflection AI, the machine learning startup led by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and DeepMind founding member Mustafa Suleyman, has secured $225 million in equity funding, according to a Securities and Exchange filing. United States Commission. The source of the capital is still unclear – Inflection did not immediately respond to a request for additional information – but the massive round suggests strong investor confidence in Suleyman, who is the company’s CEO.
Inflection, based in Palo Alto, Calif., has kept a low profile to date, granting relatively few media interviews. But in the January CNBC profile, Suleyman described wanting to create products that eliminate the need for people to simplify their ideas for communicating with machines, with the overarching goal being to leverage AI to help humans ” talk” to computers.
“[Programming languages, mice, and other interfaces] are ways to simplify our ideas and reduce their complexity and, in some ways, their creativity and uniqueness in order to make a machine do something,” Suleyman told the publication. “It feels like we’re on the verge of being able to generate a language at about human-level performance. It opens up a whole new suite of things we can do in the product space.
The concept of translating human intentions into a language that computers can understand goes back decades. Even today’s best chatbots and voice assistants haven’t lived up to their promise, but Suleyman and Hoffman are betting that upcoming advances in AI will make an intuitive human-computer interface possible within the next five years.
They will have competition. Last month, Adept, a startup co-founded by former engineers and researchers from DeepMind, OpenAI and Google, emerged stealthily with a similar concept: AI that can automate any software process. DeepMind itself has explored an approach to teaching AI to control computers, by having an AI observe the keyboard and mouse commands of people performing “following instructions” computing tasks, such as booking a flight.
Either way, the size of Inflection’s funding round reflects the high cost of building sophisticated AI systems. OpenAI is estimated to have spent millions of dollars developing GPT-3, the company’s system that can generate human-like text from a prompt. Anthropic, another startup developing cutting-edge AI models, recently raised more than half a billion to, in the words of co-founder Dario Amodei, “explore the predictable scaling properties of computer systems. ‘machine learning’.
AI expertise doesn’t come cheap either, especially in the midst of a talent shortage. In 2018, a tax return spotted by The New York Times revealed that OpenAI paid its top researcher, Ilya Sutskever, more than $1.9 million in 2016. Inflection recently hired AI experts from Google and Meta , CNBC reported in March.
“Even at the biggest tech companies, there’s a relatively small number of people who actually build these [AI] models. One of the benefits of doing that in a startup is that we can go a lot faster and be more dynamic,” Suleyman told CNBC. “My experience of building very many teams over the last 15 years is that there is that golden moment when you really have a small, very tight-knit and focused team. I will try to preserve that for as long as possible. »
Clouds surround Inflection, somewhat, following reports that Suleyman bullied staff at Google, where he worked after being placed on administrative leave at DeepMind over a controversy surrounding some of his projects. Google launched an investigation into his behavior at the time, according to the Wall Street Journal, but it never made its findings public.