AI Startup Roundup: Google’s Transformer co-Author Launches AI Lab

Also - Anthropic pens $100 million deal with SK Telecom and startup founded by ex-IBM Watson researcher raises $60 million

Ben Wodecki, Jr. Editor

August 21, 2023

3 Min Read
Getty Images/AI Business

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Google’s Transformer co-Author Launches AI Research Lab

Former Google AI researchers have set up shop in Japan as a base for their new research lab, Sakana AI.

Llion Jones and David Ha are working on what they describe as “a new kind of foundation model based on nature-inspired intelligence.”

Llion Jones was among the authors of Attention Is All You Need - the seminal paper outlining Transformer-based AI model architectures that led to the development of ChatGPT.

Ha most recently led research at Stability AI, which commercialized Stable Diffusion. Ha was also formerly head of Google’s Japanese AI research team.

The research lab’s name is the Japanese word for ‘fish.’ The pair told FT that the name is meant to bring to mind the idea of “a school of fish coming together and forming a coherent entity from simple rules.”

Jones and Ha are set on developing AI systems that can adapt - akin to the realities of nature.

AI startup funding news

Anthropic pens $100 million deal with SK Telekom

OpenAI rival Anthropic has struck a deal with Korean telco SK Telekom.

The Korean telco is investing $100 million in Anthropic - adding to previous investments from its SKTVC arm.

The cash injection is part of a deal that would see Anthropic build a large language model designed for the telco space.

The pair will now jointly develop a multilingual model that supports Korean, English, Japanese and Spanish.

Claude, Anthropic’s flagship AI model, will be fine-tuned for telco use cases, including customer service, marketing, sales and interactive consumer applications.

Jared Kaplan, Anthropic’s chief science officer, will oversee the model’s development and outline the eventual product roadmap.

“We see industry-specific large language models as having high potential to create safer and more reliable deployments of AI technology,” said Dario Amodei, co-founder and CEO of Anthropic.

IBM Watson researcher's AI startup raises $60 million

David Ferrucci, who led the team that developed IBM Watson, now runs Elemental Cognition, an AI startup that just raised $60 million, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The New York-based firm has developed chatbots for enterprises - Cogent and Cora. The solutions can be used across several use cases, including automating life sciences research and financial services tasks.

“With our recent round of funding, Elemental Cognition will continue to capitalize on our efforts to bring reliable reasoning and transparency to the market,” Ferrucci told CNBC.

The identity of the investor was not disclosed. Elemental Cognition was previously backed by Ray Dalio-led Bridgewater Associates, Breyer Capital and Stanford University.


San Francisco-based Voiceflow is building a collaborative platform allowing businesses to design, build, and manage conversational AI applications.

Users can test and launch conversational AI agents for specific use cases. According to its website, BMW, JPMorgan and Motorola have all built AI agents using its platform.

Latest funding: $15 million, venture round

Lead investor: OpenView Venture Partners

Funding plans: Voiceflow plans to invest further in its end-to-end agent building and hosting capabilities to take on "the big platforms."


New York-based Grit wants to eliminate ‘technical debt’ - software issues that arise from rushing development.

The startup has released its offering via open beta, which supports JavaScript, TypeScript, Python, CSS and Terraform.

Latest funding: $7 million,

Lead investors: Founders Fund, Abstract Ventures

Angel investors: Adobe’s chief strategy officer Scott Belsky, Vercel CEO Guillermo Rauch

Other investors: Quiet Capital, 8VC, A* Capital, AME Cloud Ventures, SV Angel, Operator Partners, CoFound Partners, Uncorrelated Ventures

Funding plans: Grit plans to expand its operations.

About the Author(s)

Ben Wodecki

Jr. Editor

Ben Wodecki is the Jr. Editor of AI Business, covering a wide range of AI content. Ben joined the team in March 2021 as assistant editor and was promoted to Jr. Editor. He has written for The New Statesman, Intellectual Property Magazine, and The Telegraph India, among others. He holds an MSc in Digital Journalism from Middlesex University.

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