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France ready to dethrone ChatGPT

French start-up Mistral has raised €1 billion in 1 year to develop its AI system

France ready to dethrone ChatGPT French start-up Mistral has raised €1 billion in 1 year to develop its AI system

The French gem of artificial intelligence Mistral AI has completed a fundraising of 600 million euros, the company announced on Tuesday, June 11. An impressive figure, but the tricolor startup is no stranger to big deals, having raised 385 million in December 2023 and 105 million in June of the same year. With this latest round, Mistral AI becomes the best-funded AI startup in Europe and is valued by the financial press at over 6 billion euros. It is known that startups in the sector are very capital-intensive – requiring several tens of millions per year – necessary to pay for compute time on very large servers to train their vast language models. « I am happy to see new and old investors renew their confidence in our business and provide new support for its development, » said Arthur Mensch, the 31-year-old CEO, co-founder of Mistral AI, and former engineer at DeepMind, Google's AI lab. This new funding round, he specifies, « guarantees the company's independence, which remains entirely under the control of the founders. »

Led by the venture capital chain General Catalyst, this fundraising brought together numerous investors, including American software publisher Salesforce, bank BNP Paribas, chip giant Nvidia, and IBM. However, Microsoft, which invested nearly 15 million euros in February in Mistral AI, did not participate. The enthusiasm of these investors represents the hopes placed in generative AI for the coming years. Similar to ChatGPT founded by OpenAI in 2022, Mistral AI is now their biggest rival despite being founded only in April 2023 by three French AI engineers - Arthur Mensch, Timothée Lacroix, and Guillaume Lample - all three from DeepMind and Meta (Facebook's parent company). They are determined to be the European leaders in AI with a global vocation and have always affirmed their intention to provide an alternative to the models of large American technology companies. In October, Arthur Mensch highlighted the strong cultural dependence on the United States in terms of AI. Unlike their American counterparts, Mistral AI focuses on developing open-source models, accessible to all.

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This desire for independence is supported by the political sphere. During Mistral AI's first fundraising in June 2023, Emmanuel Macron expressed his wish for France to become a leader in this field. In January, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, also urged the EU to intensify its efforts to not fall behind. At the end of February, Mistral AI unveiled their third language model, « Mistral Large. » According to the French startup, this model offers performance comparable to GPT-4 from OpenAI and is available to users of Microsoft's Azure AI platform. In a world where the United States increasingly controls and influences our European way of life, Mistral AI, with these raised funds and innovations, could provide an exit strategy for France and Europe in AI and detach from the giants of Silicon Valley.