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A European startup with a few months of foundation became the competition of the giants of Silicon Valley

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A European startup with a few months of foundation became the competition of the giants of Silicon Valley

Arthur Mensch of Mistral AI, a former Google employee, leads an innovative vision in AI from Paris

Within the competitive world of artificial intelligence (AI), Mistral AI, a Paris-based startup barely nine months old, is breaking into the field dominated by Silicon Valley giants, defying expectations with a valuation of more than 2 billion dollars.

The company, led by 31-year-old CEO Arthur Mensch, a former Google employee, has garnered global attention, especially after announcing a partnership with Microsoft, which will integrate Mistral AI’s new AI model as an option for developers in its service of Azure cloud, transforming the landscape of artificial intelligence with innovative proposals for efficiency and accessibility.

Mensch, along with his co-founders Timothée Lacroix and Guillaume Lample, who previously worked at Meta Platforms’ AI lab in Paris, came up with Mistral AI on the premise that you don’t need to operate at a massive scale to excel in the field of artificial intelligence. “I have always regretted that there was no Big Tech in Europe,” Mensch told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) at the Mistral AI office in Paris. “I think this is our chance to become one.”

This vision has resonated throughout the industry, attracting significant investments of more than $500 million from capitals such as Andreessen Horowitz, and forging strategic partnerships not only with Microsoft, but also with Salesforce and Nvidia, the latter being the manufacturer of the processing units more powerful graphical graphics (GPU) used to build AI systems like those of Mistral.

The launch of its AI model, Mistral Large, has marked a turning point in the technological race by demonstrating reasoning capabilities comparable to advanced models such as OpenAI’s GPT-4 and Google’s Gemini Ultra, but at a significantly lower cost estimated at less than $22 million. This cost efficiency has been a bold statement in the face of comments from Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, who mentioned that training his largest models cost “much more than” $50 to $100 million.

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The company has not only attracted attention for its capital efficiency but also for its philosophy of offering many of its AI systems as open source software, allowing for greater control and adaptability by users and developers. “We want to be the most capital-efficient company in the AI world,” Mensch said. “That is the reason for our existence.”

Arthur Mensch combines his technological vision with a friendly character and a sportsmanship spirit, characteristics that move away from the traditional stereotype of the CEO in the technology sector. With a solid academic background in mathematics and machine learning at some of the most prestigious schools in France, Mensch has always sought to improve efficiency in every project he has been involved in, a passion that he has clearly transferred to Mistral AI.

The company emerges in a context where competition to lead the field of artificial intelligence intensifies and concern about technological monopolization grows. Mensch’s decision to venture outside Big Tech circles to create a relevant European alternative in AI marks a turning point in the conversation about innovation and diversity in the sector.

For Eric Boyd, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s AI platform, Mistral represents an interesting test of how far intelligent engineering can take AI systems. “Where else can you go?” he asked. “That remains to be seen,” he told the WSJ.

Mistral AI’s mission, beyond challenging technology giants with innovative and accessible models, resonates with a deeper desire of Arthur Mensch and his co-founders: to transform Europe into an indispensable player on the global stage of artificial intelligence technology, drawing a promising horizon for the region in this era of rapid digital evolution.

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