In bid to loosen Nvidia’s grip on AI, AMD to buy Finnish startup for $665 million

In bid to loosen Nvidia’s grip on AI, AMD to buy Finnish startup for $665M

AMD is to buy Finnish artificial intelligence startup Silo AI for $665 million in one of the largest such takeovers in Europe as the US chipmaker seeks to expand its AI services to compete with market leader Nvidia.

California-based AMD said Silo’s 300-member team would use its software tools to build custom large language models (LLMs), the kind of AI technology that underpins chatbots such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Gemini. The all-cash acquisition is expected to close in the second half of this year, subject to regulatory approval.

“This agreement helps us both accelerate our customer engagements and deployments while also helping us accelerate our own AI tech stack,” Vamsi Boppana, senior vice president of AMD’s artificial intelligence group, told the Financial Times.

The acquisition is the largest of a privately held AI startup in Europe since Google acquired UK-based DeepMind for around 400 million pounds in 2014, according to data from Dealroom.

The deal comes at a time when buyouts by Silicon Valley companies have come under tougher scrutiny from regulators in Brussels and the UK. Europe-based AI startups, including Mistral, DeepL, and Helsing, have raised hundreds of millions of dollars this year as investors seek out a local champion to rival US-based OpenAI and Anthropic.

Helsinki-based Silo AI, which is among the largest private AI labs in Europe, offers tailored AI models and platforms to enterprise customers. The Finnish company launched an initiative last year to build LLMs in European languages, including Swedish, Icelandic, and Danish.

AMD’s AI technology competes with that of Nvidia, which has taken the lion’s share of the high-performance chip market. Nvidia’s success has propelled its valuation past $3tn this year as tech companies push to build the computing infrastructure needed to power the biggest AI models. AMD started to roll out its MI300 chips late last year in a direct challenge to Nvidia’s “Hopper” line of chips.

Peter Sarlin, Silo AI co-founder and chief executive, called the acquisition the “logical next step” as the Finnish group seeks to become a “flagship” AI company.

Silo AI is committed to “open source” AI models, which are available for free and can be customized by anyone. This distinguishes it from the likes of OpenAI and Google, which favor their own proprietary or “closed” models.

The startup previously described its family of open models, called “Poro,” as an important step towards “strengthening European digital sovereignty” and democratizing access to LLMs.

The concentration of the most powerful LLMs into the hands of a few US-based Big Tech companies is meanwhile attracting attention from antitrust regulators in Washington and Brussels.

The Silo deal shows AMD seeking to scale its business quickly and drive customer engagement with its own offering. AMD views Silo, which builds custom models for clients, as a link between its “foundational” AI software and the real-world applications of the technology.

Software has become a new battleground for semiconductor companies as they try to lock in customers to their hardware and generate more predictable revenues, outside the boom-and-bust chip sales cycle.

Nvidia’s success in the AI market stems from its multibillion-dollar investment in Cuda, its proprietary software that allows chips originally designed for processing computer graphics and video games to run a wider range of applications.

Since starting to develop Cuda in 2006, Nvidia has expanded its software platform to include a range of apps and services, largely aimed at corporate customers that lack the in-house resources and skills that Big Tech companies have to build on its technology.

Nvidia now offers more than 600 “pre-trained” models, meaning they are simpler for customers to deploy. The Santa Clara, California-based group last month started rolling out a “microservices” platform, called NIM, which promises to let developers build chatbots and AI “co-pilot” services quickly.

Historically, Nvidia has offered its software free of charge to buyers of its chips, but said this year that it planned to charge for products such as NIM.

AMD is among several companies contributing to the development of an OpenAI-led rival to Cuda, called Triton, which would let AI developers switch more easily between chip providers. Meta, Microsoft, and Intel have also worked on Triton.

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