Celebrated AI Startup Hugging Face Secures $235M Funding from Tech Giants 

A screenshot from Hugging Face homepage

Hugging Face, a New York-based AI startup, has secured a substantial $235 million in funding, elevating its valuation to an impressive $4.5 billion. Contributors to this round include tech giants Google, Amazon, Nvidia, Salesforce, AMD, Intel, IBM, and Qualcomm. This new funding is directed towards strengthening the company’s talent pool, ensuring competitiveness in the dynamic AI landscape.

From Its Origins as an iPhone App 

Originating as an iPhone chatbot app, Hugging Face has evolved into a significant player in the AI sector. Named after the “hugging face” emoji, depicting a smiley face embraced by open hands, the company embraces a collaborative approach similar to GitHub in the programming world. The platform empowers AI developers with tools for open sharing and testing.

Hugging Face facilitates the exchange of AI-related code, models, and datasets, streamlining the implementation of open-source AI models. Hugging Face hosts a variety of AI models, spanning from text generators to music and image creators, language translators, and image recognizers.

Currently, it boasts an impressive 500,000 distinct AI models and hosts around 250,000 datasets, serving 10,000 paying customers. Clement Delangue, Hugging Face’s CEO, highlights the platform’s active use by AI builders. Delangue envisions a future where millions of AI builders rely on Hugging Face’s tools for their daily tasks.

The surge in AI startup valuations can be attributed to established companies and venture capitalists heavily investing in the expanding AI landscape. It began with Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s release of the ChatGPT chatbot, sparking the current AI boom.

The success of Hugging Face and its influential backers reflects a shift towards a more cooperative approach to AI development, in line with Meta’s introduction of the Llama large language model.

Hugging Face’s distinction lies in its commitment to open collaboration, setting it apart from the conventional approach of closely guarding AI models and charging for API access. Hugging Face’s model resembles GitHub’s role in code sharing.

Unlikely Success Story 

The company’s name and logo stem from the “hugging face” emoji, reflecting its origin as a chatbot app. As its machine-learning code gained traction in the AI community, Hugging Face shifted towards fostering AI development, echoing the trend of large enterprises showing interest in AI startups due to the rising cost of AI research and growing demand.

Salesforce, a significant AI player, led the recent $235 million investment round for Hugging Face. This complements Salesforce’s strategic moves in AI, including doubling its generative AI fund to $500 million and participating in a $270 million funding initiative for Canadian generative AI startup Cohere.

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