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AI Startup Roundup: OpenAI Expands Startup Fund Program

Also - Former Google staff behind Transformer models set up a new AI startup, Essential AI

Ben Wodecki, Deborah Yao

December 18, 2023

4 Min Read
OpenAI logo. The ChatGPT makers have expanded its Converge AI startup program, offering $1 million and expert help across a six week program.
OpenAI wants to help startups improve their solutions.STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

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OpenAI widens Converge startup program

ChatGPT-maker OpenAI is expanding its Converge AI startup program.

First launched in December 2022, Converge is a six-week program for startup founders, offering them business help as well as $1 million.

The program is open to founders from all backgrounds, disciplines and experience levels. Additionally, the startups do not have to use OpenAI’s APIs to get in the program.

The program has space for 10 to 15 companies and runs for six weeks from March 11 to April 19, 2024. OpenAI will also cover travel costs for the first and last week of the program, with other weeks able to be completed remotely.

To apply, fill out the form on the Converge website before Friday, January 26, 2024, at 11:59 pm Pacific.

Minds behind Transformer models set up startup

Essential AI founders Ashish Vaswani (left) and Niki Parmar (right). The pair formed a new startup to build large language models to improve enterprise workflows

Two ex-Googlers and co-authors of the influential paper outlining Transformer models have formed a new startup to “deepen the partnership between humans and computers.”

Ashish Vaswani and Niki Parmar have formed Essential AI. Based in San Francisco, Essential is developing full-stack AI products to automate time-consuming and monotonous workflows. The newly emerged startup is building large language models to help users “solve progressively harder tasks and unlock critical skills.”

Related:AI News Roundup: News Content Coming to ChatGPT

In a post on X (Twitter), Vaswani said Essential is creating tech that “lowers the barrier to any enterprise workflow, time-consuming or complex, that can be performed on a computer.”

The startup has already received $56.5 million in series A funds, receiving backing from AMD, Nvidia and former employers Google, among others. March Capital led the round.

Before its emergence this week, the startup had raised $8.3 million in seed funding from the likes of former CIA director David Petraeus, serial investor Elad Gil and Replit CEO Amjad Masad, among others. Thrive Capital led that round.

Both Vaswani and Parmar were also part of the former Google and DeepMind cohort that set up Adept, the research lab trying to develop AGI, which launched back in May 2022. Both have left their roles at Adept in late 2022, according to their LinkedIn profiles.

Vaswani will serve as Essential’s CEO, while Parmar’s role is currently listed as co-founder.

“[Parmar] and I are excited to build a world-class, multi-disciplinary team of engineers, researchers, designers, and sales and product experts who are ready to solve real-world AI challenges and create a massive new market opportunity,” said Vaswani.

Related:This Week's Most Read: 5 Key Takeaways from AI Summit NY

Funding news

AutoGen AI

AutoGen AI is a New York-based startup that uses generative AI to help companies optimize writing bid proposals, which is typically a time-consuming process. It works with companies, government agencies, management consultancies, construction companies as well as charities and other nonprofits applying for grant funding. It claims to save companies 85% on costs and improve win rates by 30%.

Latest funding: $39.5 million, series B

Lead investors: Salesforce Ventures, Spark Capital

Other investors: Blossom Capital

Funding plans: Further develop its bid-writing product


Paris-based Pivot develops procurement software designed to help companies reduce costs when onboarding new team members.

Pivot’s solution is designed to be implemented quickly without the need for an integrator. It offers automation capabilities to reduce manual work and endless email threads.

Latest funding: $21.6 million, series A

Investors: Anamcara, Emblem, Visionaries

Angel investors: Oliver Samwer, CEO of Rocket Internet SE

Funding plans: Pivot plans to grow its team, with plans to double in size every year for the next two years, the company told TechCrunch.


London-based Arcane is developing AI tools for marketers. Its solutions automate tasks and provide insights and recommendations on content.

The startup said it wants to “bring the joy and creativity back to every marketers work-week.”

Latest funding: $6 million, two separate seed rounds

Lead investors: Accel ($5 million seed round), Seedcamp (pre-seed)

Funding plans: In a LinkedIn post, Arcane said the funding “accelerates our mission to give every individual the power of a team.” The startup has already begun onboarding early adopters.

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.

Deborah Yao


Deborah Yao runs the day-to-day operations of AI Business. She is a Stanford grad who has worked at Amazon, Wharton School and Associated Press.

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