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Ex-Google workers’ A.I. chatbot startup valued at $1 billion after Andreessen Horowitz funding

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Character.AI, a synthetic intelligence start-up based by two former Google workers, is capitalizing on enterprise capitalists’ unquenchable thirst for offers in know-how’s hottest house.

The 2-year-old firm mentioned on Thursday that it raised $150 million at a $1 billion valuation in a funding spherical led by Andreessen Horowitz. Noam Shazeer and Daniel De Freitas, who helped created the structure utilized in well-liked chatbots, left Google in 2021 and based Character.AI the identical yr.

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Character.AI mentioned in a press launch asserting the funding that its know-how provides “customers the power to create a fully-customizable and customized AI companion with a definite character and values.”

The financing spherical follows main efforts by Google and Microsoft to develop and embed chatbot software program into key merchandise, bringing AI-generated responses into issues like search, paperwork and e-mail. Huge tech corporations and VCs are speeding into the market after Microsoft-backed OpenAI launched ChatGPT to the general public in November and noticed the free experimental service go viral.

In January, Microsoft introduced a ChatGPT-integrated Bing search engine. Earlier this week, Google launched a take a look at model of its chatbot Bard.

“There are some overlaps, however we’re assured Google won’t ever do something enjoyable,” Freitas instructed Axios, relating to Bard. “As a result of we labored there.”

Character.AI mentioned the contemporary capital will permit it to develop its “compute talents leading to a extra subtle mannequin with superior reasoning and better accuracy.” The cash will assist the corporate develop its 22-person group and add technical talents. The corporate mentioned it is nearing 100 million web site visits monthly, “a four-fold improve in two months.”

The 10-figure valuation for an organization that is reportedly pre-revenue is harking back to different just lately hyped applied sciences like crypto (or extra broadly Web3) and social audio. Andreessen Horowitz has been a big participant in driving up costs in each markets. The agency introduced a $4.5 billion crypto fund in mid-2022 because the digital foreign money market was in freefall. A yr earlier, it added to its funding in audio app Clubhouse, valuing the early-stage startup at $Four billion. The Clubhouse buzz shortly quieted because the post-lockdown financial system reopened.

Character.AI did not present extra remark.

Sarah Wang, a associate at Andreessen Horowitz, mentioned within the launch that “Character.AI is quickly and dramatically advancing generative AI, with the potential to remodel how people join not simply with AI, however extra broadly reinvent how we work together with know-how as a complete in our on a regular basis lives.”

Different buyers embody former GitHub CEO Nat Friedman, Elad Gil, A Capital and SV Angel.

Jill Chase, who leads AI investments at Alphabet’s late-stage enterprise group Capital G, beforehand instructed CNBC that Shazeer is the kind of one that “can go into their basement for 18 months and alter the world.”

“I’ve spent quite a lot of time with Noam,” she mentioned. “He’s an distinctive technologist.”

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