Google in talks to invest $200 million in AI startup

Alphabet Inc.’s Google is in talks to invest at least $200 million in artificial intelligence startup Cohere Inc., according to people familiar with the matter, another sign of the escalating arms race between big tech companies in the world industry.

Founded in 2019, Cohere creates natural language processing software that enables developers to build enterprise-grade artificial intelligence applications, including tools for chatbots and other capabilities that can understand human speech and text. Last November, the company announced a multi-year partnership with Google to have its cloud division provide the computing power Cohere needs to train its software models.

As part of the negotiations, Cohere also held talks with chipmaker Nvidia Corp. about a possible strategic investment, it said. Talks between the companies are ongoing and could collapse, some of the people said.

Cohere’s valuation of potential new funding could not be obtained.

Google and Nvidia declined to comment. Toronto-based Cohere did not respond to requests for comment.

Other technology giants also want to increasingly rely on artificial intelligence. microsoft corp is in advanced talks for a new round of funding in OpenAI, another startup focused on developing software models to achieve within years artificial general intelligence or the ability of a machine to understand anything a human can understand.

OpenAI already uses Azure, Microsoft’s cloud service, as an exclusive partner and has agreed to give Microsoft priority in bringing technologies to market. Microsoft invested $1 billion in OpenAI in 2019.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has stressed the importance of AI to the company since taking the helm in 2015. Alphabet bought AI research firm DeepMind in 2014. Google’s research division Google Brain is also one of the most closely followed publishers on language models and other AI topics.

Aidan Gomez, CEO of Cohere, was previously an intern at Google Brain working on a paper that advanced the much-cited Transformer AI model.

Some researchers have warned that new AI models may raise sensitive ethical questions and contribute to unwarranted hype in the industry.

The new funding would contribute to a flurry of investment activity for artificial intelligence startups in an otherwise slow market for new deals. Cohere raised $125 million in a new round of funding led by investment firm Tiger Global Management in February, bringing total funding to over $170 million at the time.

On Monday, Stability AI, an artificial intelligence company, announced that it has raised $101 million in new funding from investors including Coatue Management and Lightspeed Venture Partners. The company held a launch party in San Francisco the same day, attended by Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

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