Discover more from AI in Business
ChatGPT Alternatives Emerge
Entries include offerings from Anthropic, A121 Labs, Stability AI, Baidu and Google; investors put $700M into generative AI in the first three months of 2023
By John P. Desmond, Editor, AI in Business
OpenAI rolled out ChatGPT-4 on March 14, perhaps trying to get a jump on competitive alternatives striving to get a foothold in the market. In February, OpenAI announced pricing for ChatGPT+ starting at $20/month. Now the stage is set for the competitive market. So what is the competition?
“A whole crew of startups are trying to chase after them – or leapfrog them,” stated Guido Appenzeller, a former Intel Corp AI executive and an Andreessen Horowitz Adviser, quoted in Gulf Business via Bloomberg.
Venture capitalists are pouring money into generative AI companies whose software generates new content from troves of digital text, photos and art. In 2022, generative AI companies received $920 million in funding, up 35 percent from the previous year, according to data from PitchBook. In the first three months of 2023 so far, generative AI companies have raised or are in talks to raise over $700 million, according to reports of funding rounds.
A running list maintained by the Homebrew AI Club counts more than 150 startups in the sector.
“If there is a single shining star in the sea of gloom, it is generative AI,” stated Venky Ganesan, a partner at Menlo Ventures, in the Gulf Business account. “That’s why it’s also hyped up the way it is. You cannot go to a coffee shop in Palo Alto, or the Village Pub in Woodside, without overhearing three different conversations about generative AI.”
Here is a look at a selection of the competitors:
Anthropic was founded in 2020 by siblings Daniela and Dario Amodei, who had worked at OpenAI. In January, the company released a test version of a chatbot alternative to ChatGPT, named Claude. Daniela, who is president, worked for two years at OpenAI as VP of safety and policy. Dario, who is CEO, worked at OpenAI for over four years, most recently as VP of research, leading efforts to build GPT-2 and GPT-3.
“We first built Claude as a test bed for AI safety, seeking to develop insights into how to make AI systems that are helpful, honest, and harmless,” Dario stated.
It’s more difficult to get Claude to say something offensive than it is for ChapGPT, according to a company spokesman. That was verified by a tester from Scale AI, a startup that helps companies build AI applications, that was given access to Claude for testing. “Claude is more inclined to refuse inappropriate requests,’’ compared to ChatGPT, the tester stated.
Backers of Anthropic include Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Google has invested almost $400 million in Anthropic and has a commitment from the company to use Google Cloud.
AI21 Labs is an Israeli startup that has developed a GPT-3 alternative called Jurassic and tools that use AI to help customers write.
“Our focus has been to change how we read and write,” stated co-founder Yoav Shoham, a former director of the AI lab at Stanford University. The company’s first large-language model was about the same size as GPT-3, but more recently AI21 has released a much smaller version, which Shoham stated has had impressive performance.
Some 25,000 developers have signed up to use Jurassic as of mid-March; in November, the company made Jurassic available through Amazon’s cloud AI service.
AI21 raised $64m in July, which valued the company at $664 million, according to reports.
Stability AI Targets Film Industry
Stability AI became known last year for the release of the AI image generator named Stable Diffusion, the main alternative to OpenAI’s Dall-E. Stable Diffusion is built on an open source software model, leaving clients to tweak and build on it, while Dall-E is built on a proprietary and confidential model.
This year, Stability plans to release a ChatGPT alternative and systems for AI-generated video to serve the film industry, according to Tom Mason, CTO of Stability. “We’re working on video models this year, which is my passion,” he stated in the Gulf Business account.
Stability plans to offer services to help customers prepare their data to be used to develop systems based on the company’’s software. “You need engineers who know what they’re doing to handhold you through that process,” Mason stated. “Our commerce strategy is to help big companies.”
Stability raised $101 million in a seed round in October 2022, giving it a valuation of $1 billion. The company works with Amazon’s cloud infrastructure to power its systems. The company is facing legal challenges to its incorporation of copyright-protected images in its system.
Baidu Has Unveiled Ernie
Baidu, the multinational tech company based in China, recently announced the release of its Ernie Bot to an initial customer set. The company also offered access to the Ernie Bot API via Baidu AI Cloud, allowing enterprise clients to apply to use the platform's advanced language capability. Since February, over 650 enterprises have joined the Ernie Bot program, Baidu announced in a press release.
Baidu is positioning Ernie as a foundational AI platform for finance, energy, media and public affairs markets. Robin Li, Baidu co-founder, Chairman and CEO of Baidu stated, "Baidu envisions a future where we join forces with all to drive the evolution of AI, empowering every individual with access to state-of-the-art productivity tools and ensuring that the benefits of these advancements are shared by all.
"Ernie stands for Enhanced REpresentation of Knowledge INtegration. The company said the first version of Ernie was developed in 2019. “Baidu has for over a decade persisted in investing in artificial intelligence … Ernie Bot is the result of many years of hard work,” Li stated.
Baidu made the announcement in a pre-recorded video where Li stood beside the chat screen , narrating questions that had been typed into the chatbot. He referred to the presentation as a demo. No timeline was announced for a full public rollout. Shares of the company dropped 10 percent after the announcement.
Google Releases Bard, Cautiously
Google this week released its Bard AI chatbot to a limited number of users in the US and Britain.The company’’s slow rollout stands in contrast to the bold entry of OpenAI’s ChatGPT-3, which has led to some unpredictable and untrustworthy results.
Google is surfacing Bard as a separate web page rather than a component of its search engine, which is the basis of the advertising business model that is its primary source of revenue.
“It’s important that Google start to play in this space because this is where the world is headed,” stated Adrian Aoun, a former Google director of special projects, now the CEO of the health care startup Forward, according to an account in The New York Times.
Chirag Dekate, an analyst with Gartner, stated, “We are at a singular moment,” with the release of ChatGPT prompting greater competition between Google and Microsoft, and the beginning of a response from Google. “Now that market demand has shifted, Google’s approach has too,” he stated.
Google is said to have been testing the technology underlying Bard since 2015, but has been cautious in releasing it, especially after witnessing examples of bias against women and people of color in early generative AI releases.
“We are well aware of the issues; we need to bring this to market responsibly,” stated Eli Collins, Google’s vice president for research. “At the same time, we see all the excitement in the industry and the excitement of all the people using generative AI.”
Collins and Sissie Hsiao, a Google VP for product, stated to the Times that the company has not yet determined how it will generate revenue from Bard, although it is being incorporated into Google products and is for sale to developers who want to build it into their own products. .
“It is early days for the technology,” Hsiao stated. “We’re exploring how these experiences can show up in different products.”
(Write to the editor here.)
Thanks for reading AI in Business! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.