Mistral AI, the French artificial intelligence start-up created in May by industry leaders, announced on Sunday that it had raised €385 million, mainly from American groups, becoming one of the two AI champions in Europe. It had already raised €105 million in June, and among European AI companies, only Germany's Aleph Alpha has as much funding, after raising nearly €500 million in early November.
This second round of financing, led by the Californian fund Andreessen Horowitz, values Mistral AI at €2 billion, according to financial sources, making it a French unicorn (a tech company valued at more than a billion). The emergence of European AI players comes at a time when the EU has just agreed on Friday on a future regulation of the sector, without restricting European innovation. France and Germany feared that excessive regulation would nip their fledgling champions in the bud.
Mistral AI's backers include several American tech giants, such as software publisher Salesforce, but also, according to industry sources, the Nvidia Group, a global specialist in chips for supercomputers. Mobilizing the biggest players in Silicon Valley shows the enthusiasm generated by Mistral AI in just eight months of existence. The American press is already citing it as a potential rival to Open AI, the originator of ChatGPT.
Read alsoThese profiles of elite salespeople who will not be replaced by artificial intelligence
Like many of its competitors, Mistral AI, which now has 22 employees, offers companies open-source language models based on public data. Its main asset is that it was co-founded by three French AI experts, trained at l'X or ENS, hired by the American giants but who decided to return to Paris. The CEO, Arthur Mensch, 31, a graduate of the Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole Normale Supérieure, spent nearly three years at DeepMind, Google's AI lab. Its partners come from Meta (Facebook): Guillaume Lample is one of the creators of the LLaMA language model unveiled by Meta in February, and Timothée Lacroix was also a researcher at Meta.