Anthropic – Amazon to invest US$4 billion into OpenAI rival

On Monday, Amazon announced it would be investing in Anthropic and become a minority owner of the AI startup.

Anthropic – Amazon to invest US$4 billion into OpenAI rival
Anthropic logo is seen in this illustration taken March 31, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The backstory: It seems like artificial intelligence (AI) only really took off less than a year ago when AI image generators like Dall-E and Midjourney hit the scene, followed closely by the launch of chatbots like the groundbreaking ChatGPT. Both Dall-E (and Dall-E 2) and ChatGPT were developed by a firm called OpenAI, a project started with the help of Elon Musk, Sam Altman and other big names in Silicon Valley, like Peter Thiel and LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman. They’d pledged a combined US$1 billion toward it. Initially, the main goal of the project, which was open-source and nonprofit at first, was to produce AI "in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole.”

In 2019, Microsoft got involved, investing in OpenAI and creating a partnership between the two companies. Microsoft has continued to collaborate with and invest in OpenAI, adopting some of its generative AI tech into its own programs, like its Azure OpenAI Service. So far, Microsoft has invested a reported US$13 billion into the company.

More recently: As OpenAI explodes on the tech scene, competition in the AI arena is rising. Anthropic is another AI startup pulling up to the ring. Already with some big-time investors (including Google), Anthropic was founded by siblings Dario and Daniela Amodei, who had actually worked for Open AI at one point.

Anthropic is best known for creating a chatbot named Claude, which is capable of “sophisticated dialogue and creative content generation to complex reasoning and detailed instruction.” This firm is also trying to create a reputation for itself as developing AI tech in a responsible way, with many people (and governments) concerned about how the technology can be misused or make mistakes.

The development: On Monday, Amazon announced it would be investing up to US$4 billion in Anthropic and become a minority owner of the startup. Trying to compete with Google and Microsoft in terms of tech offerings, Amazon is also looking to compete with Nvidia when it comes to designing and producing complex semiconductor chips. Amazon is starting with a US$1.25 billion initial investment, and either of them can call for an additional US$2.75 billion next.

With such a big investment partner, Anthropic can work on building future AI models and use Amazon’s cloud services to distribute this new tech. As part of the investment agreement, Anthropic will use Amazon’s cloud giant AWS as a major cloud provider for certain projects, like safety research and future foundation model development. Anthropic will also use Amazon-related chips to work on its future foundation models. Google is also an Anthropic investor but with a smaller stake of about 10%.

Key comments:

“We can help improve many customer experiences, short- and long-term, through our deeper collaboration,” said Amazon CEO Andy Jassy in a statement.

“Training state-of-the-art models requires extensive resources including compute power and research programs. Amazon’s investment and supply of AWS Trainium and Inferentia technology will ensure we’re equipped to continue advancing the frontier of AI safety and research,” said Anthropic in its own statement. “We look forward to working closely with Amazon to responsibly scale adoption of Claude and deliver safe AI cloud technologies to organizations around the world.”