OpenAI, the San Francisco-based lab behind AI systems like GPT-3 and DALL-E 2, today launched a new program aimed at providing early-stage AI startups with capital and a access to OpenAI technology and resources.
Called Converge, the cohort will be funded by the OpenAI seed fund, according to OpenAI. The $100 million entrepreneurial tranche was announced last May and was backed by Microsoft and other partners. The approximately 10 founders chosen for Converge will receive $1 million each and admission to five weeks of office hours, workshops and events with OpenAI staff, as well as early access to OpenAI models and to “programming suitable for AI companies”.
“We’re excited to meet groups at all stages of the seed phase, from pre-idea solo founders to co-founding teams already working on a product,” OpenAI wrote in a blog post shared with TechCrunch ahead of the announcement. ‘today. “Engineers, designers, researchers and product builders… from all backgrounds, disciplines and levels of experience are encouraged to apply, and prior experience working with AI systems is not required.”
The deadline to apply is November 25, but OpenAI notes that it will continue to evaluate applications after that date for future cohorts.
When OpenAI first detailed the OpenAI Startup Fund, it said recipients of the fund’s money would have access to Microsoft’s Azure resources. It is unclear whether the same benefit will be granted to Converge participants; we asked OpenAI to clarify. We’ve also asked OpenAI to disclose the full terms of Converge, including the Fairness Agreement, and will update this article once we receive a response.
Beyond Converge, surprisingly, there aren’t many incubator programs focused exclusively on AI startups. The Allen Institute for AI has a small accelerator that launched in 2017 that provides up to $500,000 in pre-seed investment and up to $450,000 in cloud compute credits. Google Brain founder Andrew Ng leads the AI Fund, a $175 million tranche to launch new AI-centric businesses and companies. And Nat Friedman (formerly of GitHub) and Daniel Gross (ex-Apple) are funding the AI grant, which provides up to $250,000 for “AI native” product startups and $250,000 in cloud credits from Azure.
With Converge, OpenAI is undoubtedly looking to cash in on the increasingly lucrative industry that is AI. The Information reports that OpenAI – which itself is reportedly in talks to raise funds from Microsoft at a valuation of nearly $20 billion – has agreed to lead funding for Descript, an audio and video editing application powered by AI, at a valuation of around $550 million. AI startup Cohere is reportedly negotiating a $200 million funding round led by Google, while Stability AI, the company supporting the development of generative AI systems including Stable Diffusion, recently raised $101 million. of dollars.
The size of AI startups’ biggest funding rounds doesn’t necessarily correlate with revenue, given the huge expenses (staff, compute, etc.) involved in developing cutting-edge AI systems. (Training at Stable Diffusion alone costs about $600,000, according to Stability AI.) But investors’ continued drive to scale back those massive startup vetting — see Inflection AI’s $225 million raise, the 580 million dollars of new funding from Anthropic, etc. – suggests that they have confidence in an eventual return on investment.