Big tech companies are pouring money into AI startups, which could help them address antitrust concerns.

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Another week, and another round of crazy cash injections and valuations from the AI ​​realm.

DeepL, an AI language translation startup, raised $300 million at a $2 billion valuation. Scale AI, a data labeling platform for machine learning models, fetched $1 billion as its valuation nearly doubled to $13.8 billion. And H, a new French startup working on its Frontier models, raised a $220 million seed round at an undisclosed price (though that certainly moves H comfortably into unicorn territory).

While all the usual institutional investors are present, such as Accel, Index, and Y Combinator (YC), this investment really underscores the corporate climber's ability to act while keeping regulators at their arm's length. .

Semi integration

Take Scale AI, a company that has attracted purely institutional and angel investors since its inception in 2016 through its Series E round in 2021. VC arms from Intel, AMD, Cisco, and ServiceNow.

On the same day that ScaleAI announced its chunky Series F investors, H showed his hand: Amazon also backed Samsung's VC arm and UiPath, an automation software company worth $10 billion today. Is.

Corporate investment in AI startups has been a big story in the past couple of years, best exemplified by Microsoft's close relationship with ChatGPT maker OpenAI. The deal has drawn scrutiny from antitrust regulators in the European Union and the United Kingdom, fueled by growing concerns that Big Tech is adopting a new “quasi-merger” tactic that could harm nascent technologies. Seeks control and influence over them without directly buying them. Hiring founding startup teams, for example, or even strategic investments.

Microsoft is said to own a 49 percent stake in OpenAI, meaning it could have a case to answer once European regulators complete their preliminary investigation — regardless of whether Microsoft Have voting influence in OpenAI or not.

Anthropic may find itself in a similar position. The three-year-old company has raised north of $7 billion from multiple investors, with corporates such as Google, SAP, and the venture arms of Salesforce and Zoom throwing cash into the pot. But Amazon, in particular, is responsible for more than half of Anthropic's fundraising to date, closing in on a $4 billion investment in March. Although its investment has not given Amazon a majority stake (similar to Microsoft's with OpenAI), the UK antitrust regulator CMA confirmed last month that it was considering the deal. is whether it can qualify for an antitrust investigation.

At the same time, CMA also revealed that it is considering Microsoft's recent acquisition of Inflection AI (a year after Microsoft became Inflection's biggest backer), in which Microsoft gave its founders and key partners a Saw the new consumer AI unit getting ready to run. A bare-bones inflection AI focused on the enterprise segment.

The CMA also confirmed it is investigating Microsoft's recent $16 million investment in French AI startup Mistral. But the regulator quickly concluded that Dell did not qualify for an investigation because of its relative size.

“The CMA has considered the information submitted by Microsoft and Mistral AI, together with feedback received in response to the invitation to comment,” a CMA spokesperson said at the time. “Based on the evidence, the CMA does not believe that Microsoft has acquired material influence over Mistral AI as a result of the partnership and is therefore not eligible for investigation.”

While Nvidia hasn't historically been included in the “big tech” bracket like these aforementioned companies, it has emerged as a major player in the AI ​​gold rush, and its influence cannot be overstated. Sukta: The company was valued. $770 billion this time last year wasn't unusual, but that number has risen to more than $2.5 trillion in the intervening months. This positions Nvidia as the third most valuable company worldwide, behind Microsoft ($3.17 trillion) and Apple ($2.87 trillion), but ahead of Meta ($1.18 trillion), Amazon ($1.88 trillion), and Alphabet ( $2.15 trillion).

Nvidia has invested in AI startup Hugging Face along with Amazon, Google, Qualcomm, Intel, and others. Elsewhere, Nvidia has bought stakes in Cohere, Perplexity AI, Inflection AI, Cohesity, Mistral AI, Weka, Wayve, and other AI startups.

Big tech is showing no sign of softening its AI startup investment ethos, hoping that acquiring a small equity stake might just give it a regulatory pass. But that doesn't mean the wizards of Silicon Valley and Seattle won't have some sort of control over these companies — they're all stakeholders, and can influence startups in all sorts of subtle and not-so-subtle ways. . methods

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