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Hugging Face will get a $235M group hug led by Salesforce

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A day after Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff jumped the gun with a publish on X saying the corporate’s enterprise arm was “thrilled to guide” a brand new spherical of financing, Hugging Face has formally introduced a $235 million equal of a gaggle hug — the opposite members within the spherical are Google, Amazon, Nvidia, Intel, AMD, Qualcomm, IBM and Sound Ventures — that may deliver the AI startup’s valuation as much as a frothy $4 billion.

Hugging Face CEO and cofounder Clement Delangue instructed VentureBeat that the funds shall be used to develop the group (which at the moment stands at 170) and spend money on open-source AI and collaboration platform constructing. Hugging Face, based in 2016, had raised a complete of $160 million previous to the brand new funding, with its final spherical a $100 million collection C introduced in 2022.

Marc Benioff, Salesforce Ventures, Hugging Face

Hugging Face says funding has ‘no strings connected’

In a video interview, Delangue instructed VentureBeat he had by no means noticed so many main cloud and {hardware} corporations concerned in a single funding spherical, which he mentioned made clear how broad help is for open-source AI and the way central Hugging Face has turn out to be for the AI group — the corporate now has over one million repositories, up from 300,000 earlier this 12 months. This consists of 500,000 fashions, 250,000 datasets and 250,000 areas.

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Delangue additionally emphasised that the brand new funding spherical has “no strings connected, no dedication,” which he mentioned was “actually necessary to us.”

He added that Salesforce has been intensifying its open-source AI efforts over the previous few months. “They’ve actually been rising their presence on Hugging Face,” he mentioned. “Clearly for his or her enterprise prospects AI is high of thoughts, so I believe they need to actually need to be extra AI-focused.”

Salesforce no stranger to constructing and investing in AI

Salesforce is definitely no stranger to the AI area: In June, Salesforce Ventures introduced that it was doubling its generative AI fund to $500 million, seeking to develop its affect within the area. Additionally in June, Salesforce Ventures participated within the $270 million funding of Canadian generative AI startup Cohere.

Exterior of Salesforce Ventures and its investing efforts, Salesforce has been pushing its personal AI agenda in recent times. Previous to the generative AI increase, the corporate had constructed its personal Einstein AI engine to assist with predictive insights for its platform. 

Over the course of 2023, Salesforce has made a collection of bulletins about its embrace of the generative AI period, beginning in March with the discharge of Einstein GPT. That was adopted by bulletins of a brand new AI cloud, the advertising and marketing GPT and Commerce GPT merchandise, and earlier this month Einstein Studio for coaching AI fashions.

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Hugging Face continues to develop with massive partnerships

The brand new funding in Hugging Face comes at a very opportune time.

The corporate advantages from a big and rising group of customers that’s being more and more bolstered with some large partnerships. 

IBM is among the many many massive enterprise distributors working with Hugging Face. In Might, IBM introduced that it’s working with Hugging Face to deliver open AI fashions to IBM’s enterprise customers. That partnership additionally led to information earlier this month that IBM and NASA are working with Hugging Face to deploy open-source geospatial fashions to assist cope with the challenges of local weather change.

Enterprise IT operations platform vendor ServiceNow can be working intently with Hugging Face in a partnership to develop a generative AI coding software known as StarCoder, introduced in Might.

Continued AI investments from massive enterprise distributors

AI startups have been gaining extra curiosity from massive enterprise distributors during the last a number of years.

“There may be definitely room for a number of paths on this nonetheless nascent market and enterprises will search the AI companions and applied sciences that they imagine in and need to rally behind,” Futurom Group analyst Todd Weiss instructed VentureBeat. “And with that there shall be causes for tech corporations to hitch different corporations in backing Hugging Face, OpenAI or others.”

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Weiss famous that he’s not shocked in any respect that Salesforce is investing in Hugging Face. In spite of everything, he famous, Microsoft has very publicly made three rounds of investments in OpenAI since 2019. In his view these investments make loads of sense.

“This work on the planet of AI is extremely costly and it is smart {that a} startup like Hugging Face can be searching for extra funding {dollars},” Weiss mentioned. “There are solely going to be extra corporations like Salesforce that wish to get extra concerned on this rising AI area, particularly at the moment as AI appears to solely be rising in demand. I don’t see this pattern waning anytime quickly.”

Nonetheless, Delangue emphasised that whereas the fund-raise is “good validation for open supply AI,” Hugging Face hadn’t deliberate to boost cash proper now.

“We reached out yearly milestones simply earlier than summer time, so twice [as fast as] we anticipated,” he mentioned. “Plus opportunistically, simply getting exterior curiosity led us to imagine it was a great time to double down.”

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