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Google is a dominant investor when it comes to AI startups. On Friday, Google announced a partnership with Anthropic, a startup founded in 2021. Anthropic makes ‘Claude’ which, much like ChatGPT, is an artificial intelligence chatbot. With the $300 million deal, Google will take an estimated 10% stake in the startup, according to the Financial Times. Anthropic, for its part, gets both a financial boost and cloud computing resources it needs. The deal could give Anthropic a valuation of roughly $5 billion, the New York Times reported.
“We’re partnering with Google Cloud to support the next phase of Anthropic, where we’re going to deploy our AI systems to a larger set of people,” said Dario Amodei, CEO of Anthropic. Fascinatingly, in 2015, Amodei worked as a senior research scientist at Google Brain. During his ten-month stint at Google, he worked to extend the capabilities of neural networks safety of AI systems and laid out some key issues to prevent AI mishaps.
Amodei is not the only one. Since its first investment in 2005, Google has shown financial interest in seven other companies founded by its former employees. Last year in September, Google was in talks to invest at least $200 million into Cohere Inc., according to people familiar with the matter. However, further updates on the investment have yet to be made. The AI startup was co-founded by Aidan Gomez and Nick Frosst in 2019. Prior to this, Gomez interned at Google Brain and worked on a widely cited paper, ‘Attention is All You Need‘. Similarly, Frosst worked on neural network research with AI visionary Geoffrey Hinton during his stint at Google Brain.
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Earlier in 2022, along with a group of investors, Google put forward $6.5 million for ‘FlexiDAO’ to grow. The company provides services that allow companies to switch to certifiable 24×7 carbon-free energy by tracking the carbon emissions of energy sources they use. Both Microsoft and Google are already customers of the service. The co-founder and CGO, Joan Collell, interned at Google, Dublin, in 2013.
Ghosts of Google’s Past
‘Verily’ emerged from Google’s semi-secret R&D group ‘X’ in 2015 and managed to secure a billion-dollar funding from Google in 2022. Prior to co-founding the company, Brian Otis was the director of Google X, a laboratory set up not to invent new products but chase moonshot ideas. Moreover, Verily’s current president Stephen Gillett has been an employee at Google X for almost a decade.
In 2021, ‘Nuro’, which develops autonomous vehicles for delivery services, raised $600 million from Tiger Global Management, joined by Google. The funding pushed the US-based startup’s valuation to $8.6 billion, 72% higher than a year ago. Nuro was launched by Dave Ferguson and Jiajun Zhu, two former Google engineers and has had a steady stream of investors ever since. However, unlike most of its competitors, Nuro has focused its efforts on designing a low-speed EV that transports goods instead of people.
‘Isovalent’ secured an investment of $40 million from Google and others in 2021. A little-known fact about the company is that the current CEO, Dan Wendlandt interned at Google in the summer of 2005. The California-based company develops open-source software for cloud applications. Isovalent was able to win over investors with its open-source software that aims to make various cloud applications safer to use. Its most popular products include ‘Cilium’, which is a software that is also used in Google’s Kubernetes engine.
A major interest in medical tech startups is visible in Google’s investments throughout the years. Another such investment was made in Canadian startup ‘Arkangel AI’, which works on predictive algos to enable an environment free of preventable diseases by 2030. The company’s CEO, Jose Zea, was a part of Google’s Accelerator W20 and received funding of $196K from the tech juggernaut in the same year.
‘Niantic Inc.’, the company behind the legendary ‘Pokémon Go’, is also backed by Google, which happens to be the former employer of John Hanke, CEO of Niantic Inc. Hanke became the chief executive in 2015, prior to which he worked at Google as VP of Product Management for Maps, Street View, Earth and Local.