On a mission to take on existing big players in generative AI, Together wants to ensure open access for the nascent technology.
Together, an AI start-up based in Menlo Park, California, has announced the raise of $20m in a seed funding round to build open-source generative AI and a cloud platform.
Founded last year by Vipul Ved Prakash, Ce Zhang, Chris Ré and Percy Liang, Together is a decentralised cloud platform for artificial intelligence that is on a mission to make AI models more open and accessible in a market where Big Tech players are currently leading innovation.
“When Chris, Percy, Ce and I first got together last year, we all felt it was clear that foundation models represented a generational shift in technology, maybe the most significant since the invention of the transistor,” said Prakash, CEO of Together and a former director at Apple.
“We could see the trend toward centralisation of these models within a small number of corporations due to the vast expense of high-end GPU clusters needed for training.
“Meanwhile, the open community that had led the innovations in AI over the prior decades had limited agency in shaping the coming world of AI.”
Prakash said that this is exactly what Together is trying to change, by creating open and decentralised alternatives to existing cloud systems (such as AWS, Azure and Google Cloud) that will be “critical” to business and society going forward.
A serial entrepreneur, Prakash previously founded cybersecurity platform Cloudmark and social media analytics company Topsy, the latter of which was scooped up by Apple in 2013.
The latest seed funding in Together was led by Lux Capital. Other backers include a long list of VCs including Factory, SV Angel, First Round Capital, Long Journey Ventures, A Capital, Robot Ventures, Common Metal, Definition Capital, Susa Ventures, Cadenza Ventures and SCB 10x.
Individual investors include IronPort co-founder Scott Banister, Cloudera co-founder Jeff Hammerbacher, Oasis Labs founder Dawn Song, OpenSea co-founder Alex Atallah, as well as angel investors Marc Bhargava, Jennifer Campbell, Chafic Kazoun and Dave Eisenberg, among others.
“This is just the beginning. Our aim is to help create open models that outrival closed models and establish open-source as the default way to incorporate AI,” Prakash said.
Through the team’s research in distributed optimisation, Prakash said Together has built a cloud platform for large models that can scale training and inference, which the start-up plans to open up in the coming months.
“This will enable rapid customisation and coupling of foundation models with production tasks. Open models will give developers and organisations greater ability to understand, inspect and utilise AI, without vendor lock-in and with strong privacy protections.”
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