Here comes yet more money for AI startups. Today, the Chinese search giant Baidu announced that it plans to establish a venture fund with 1 billion yuan ($145 million) to back startups focused on content generated by artificial intelligence applications.
Reuters, which reported the news earlier, said the company will also launch a competition for developers who build applications off its ERNIE large language model (LLM) or integrate the model into their existing products.
Baidu appears to be stealing a page from the playbook of OpenAI, the U.S. company that’s been taking the world by storm and that first set aside $100 million for an OpenAI Startup Fund in 2021. (Per a recent filing, that fund subsequently grew to $175 million.)
Still, the two companies are hardly alone in wanting to fund startups that could become customers or even eventual acquisition targets. Google, for example, is reportedly participating in the newest round of funding for Runway AI, whose software can conjure up images and videos based on just a few words. (According to The Information, Google is investing off its balance sheet instead of via a dedicated fund.)
Meanwhile, in China, as in the U.S., leading companies are racing to dominate in a world that’s increasingly awash in generative AI.
Several days ago, for example, Baidu’s billionaire founder Robin Li said the company will soon launch a new version of a large-language model, one that powers its ChatGPT-like service, Ernie Bot, which it first unveiled in March.
Another Chinese tech giant, Alibaba, said last month that its own large language model, Tongyi Qianwen, will be integrated across its businesses to improve user experiences.
Tencent is also working on a foundation model, called HunyuanAide.
All are trailing the momentum of OpenAI’s popular ChatGPT chatbot, though ChatGPT’s use was banned by the Chinese government back in February, giving them a chance, potentially, to catch up.