AI firm Appen sheds more executives months after cutting ties with Alphabet

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“Strengthening our sales and marketing function is a top priority for the business,” CEO Ryan Cullen wrote in a memo shared with CNBC. Has not come.”

The departure follows Alphabet's announcement in January that it was ending all contractual ties with Apple, which once helped train Google's chatbot and other AI products. Two weeks after the decision, Appen CEO Armaghan Ahmed left after just 12 months on the job.

While generative AI is on the rise, Appen, once an industry darling, is losing business as tech companies spend billions of dollars training their top language models (LLMs) or building leading AI platforms. All of them are chasing a market that is predicted to reach $1 trillion in revenue within a decade.

Despite Appen's once-enviable client list and its nearly 30-year history, revenue fell 30% in 2023, following a 13% decline a year earlier. The company partly attributed the decline to “challenging external operating and macro conditions”.

Former employees told CNBC last year that the company's struggle to move to creative AI reflected years of lax quality controls and a fragmented organizational structure.

The latest memo also notes that the company's vice president of sales and vice president of global solutions will now report directly to Cullen, who wrote that the company is “targeting customers who currently rely on data services.” Spending.”

In the past, five customers—Microsoft, Apple, Meta, Google and Amazon—accounted for 80 percent of Apple's revenue, and the company used the platform to train nearly 1 million freelancers in more than 170 countries to provide world-leading AI training. used for system

After a “strategic review process,” Alphabet notified Appen in January of the layoffs, which took effect March 19, according to Appen's filing. The company said at the time that it had “no prior knowledge of Google's decision to terminate the contract.” In 2023, revenue from work with Alphabet totaled $82.8 million of Appen's $273 million in sales for the year, according to a January filing.

In August 2020, Appen's shares hit AU$42.44 ($27.08) on the Australian Securities Exchange, giving it a market cap of $4.3 billion. Since then, the company has lost 99 percent of its value.

Appen's past work for tech companies includes evaluating the relevance of search results, helping AI assistants understand requests in different accents, classifying e-commerce images using AI, and designing electric vehicle charging stations. has been on projects such as building map locations, according to public information and interviews conducted by CNBC.

Today's LLMs, the ones behind OpenAI's ChatGPT and Google's Gemini, are scouring the digital universe to provide sophisticated answers and innovative images in response to simple text questions. Companies are spending more on Nvidia processors and less on external AI training from companies like Appen.

“I am very focused on supporting our sales team to be as effective as possible,” Cullen wrote in the memo. “To achieve this, we need to arm them with content and messaging that differentiates Appen versus our competitors.”

Appen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Watch: 'We're a decade away' from solving AI

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