The hottest startup in Silicon Valley right now is OpenAI, the developer of Microsoft-backed ChatGPT, a much-hyped chatbot that can write a poem, a college essay, or even a line of software code.
Tesla tycoon Elon Musk was an early investor in OpenAI and Microsoft is reportedly in talks for an initial investment of $1 billion to $10 billion in a bid to challenge Google’s dominant search engine.
If accepted, the Windows maker’s cash injection would value OpenAI at $29 billion, making it a rare success in the tech world when major players such as Amazon, Meta and Twitter are cutting back. costs and laying off staff.
“Microsoft is clearly aggressive on this front and won’t be left behind on what could be a potential game-changing investment in AI,” said analyst Dan Ives of Wedbush Securities.
Before the release of ChatGPT, OpenAI wowed tech geeks with Dall-E 2, software that creates digital images with a simple instruction.
Microsoft, which does not hide its ambitions in terms of AI, has integrated Dall-E 2 into several of its applications and now, according to a Bloomberg report, the tech giant wants to graft ChatGPT to its Bing search engine for s attack Google.
Since the introduction of ChatGPT in November, the prowess of this chatbot has aroused the curiosity and fascination of Internet users.
He is able to formulate detailed and human responses on a wide range of topics in seconds, raising concerns that he is vulnerable to misuse by school cheaters or for misinformation purposes.
The dizzying success is due in part to OpenAI’s clever marketing strategy in which it made its research accessible to non-experts, said AI scholar Robb Wilson, founder of OneReach.ai, a software company.
“Having this technology available to technologists was one thing. Offering it in a chat UI and allowing non-developers to start playing with it sparked a conversation,” he said.
Founded in late 2015, OpenAI is run by Sam Altman, a 37-year-old entrepreneur and former president of startup incubator Y Combinator.
The company has relied on financial support from high-profile contributors from the start, including LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, investor Peter Thiel and Musk.
The multi-billionaire served on OpenAI’s board until 2018, but left to focus on Tesla, the electric vehicle company.
The startup also relies on a team of computer scientists and researchers led by Ilya Sutskever, a former Google executive specializing in machine learning.
OpenAI, which did not respond to requests from AFP, had around 200 employees in 2021, according to a request made directly on ChatGPT.
For now, despite the enthusiasm generated by ChatGPT, the company has not yet found the path to financial independence.
Founded as a nonprofit, the startup became a “capped profit” company in 2019 to attract more investors and this week co-founder Greg Brockman said that a paid version of ChatGPT was in the works.
The search for financing seems necessary for a company with exorbitant expenses.
In a Twitter exchange with Musk in early December, Altman recognized that each conversation on ChatGPT costs OpenAI several hundred US.
According to estimates by Tom Goldstein, an associate professor in the computer science department at the University of Maryland, the company pays $100,000 a day for its bot, or about $3 million a month.
A partnership with Microsoft, which provides the startup with its IT services remotely, could reduce costs, but “it’s not cheap either way,” Goldstein said.
“Some say it’s a waste to pour those kinds of resources…into a demo,” he added.
© Agence France-Presse