An anonymous reader quotes a report from Wired: Europe wants its own Open AI. The bloc’s politicians are sick of regulating American tech giants from afar. They want Europe to build its own generative AI, which is why so many people are rooting for Jonas Andrulis, an easy-going German with a carefully pruned goatee. Ask people within Europe’s tech bubble which AI companies they’re excited about and the names that come up most are Mistral, a French startup that has raised $100 million without releasing any products, and the company Andrulis founded, Aleph Alpha, which sells generative AI as a service to companies and governments and already has thousands of paying customers. […] Now 41, Andrulis spent three years working on AI at Apple before leaving in 2019 to explore the technology’s potential outside the constraints of a big corporation. He set up Aleph Alpha in Heidelberg, a city in southwestern Germany. The company set to work building large language models, a type of AI that identifies patterns in human language in order to generate its own text or analyze huge numbers of documents. Two years later, Aleph Alpha raised $27 million, an amount that’s expected to be dwarfed by a new funding round Andriulis hints could be announced in the coming weeks.
Right now, the company’s clients — which range from banks to government agencies — are using Aleph Alpha’s LLM to write new financial reports, concisely summarize hundreds of pages, and build chatbots that are experts in how a certain company works. “I think a good rule of thumb is whatever you could teach an intern, our technology can do,” Andrulis says. The challenge, he says, is making the AI customizable so businesses using it feel in control and have a say in how it works. “If you’re a large international bank and you want to have a chatbot that is very insulting and sarcastic, I think you should have every right.” But Andrulis considers LLMs just a stepping stone. “What we are building is artificial general intelligence,” he says. AGI, as it’s known, is widely seen as the ultimate aim of generative AI companies — an artificial, humanlike intelligence that can be applied to a wide range of tasks.
The interest Aleph Alpha has received so far — the company claims 10,000 customers across both business and government — shows it is able to compete, or at least coexist, with the emerging giants of the field, says Jorg Bienert, who is CEO of the German AI Association, an industry group. “This demand definitely shows it really makes sense to develop and provide these types of models in Germany,” he says. “Especially when it comes to governmental institutions that clearly want to have a solution that is developed and hosted in Europe.” Last year, Aleph Alpha opened its first data center in Berlin so it could better cater to highly regulated industries, such as government or security clients, that want to ensure their sensitive data is hosted in Germany. The concern about sending private data overseas is just one reason it’s important to develop European AI, says Bienert. But another, he says, is that it’s important to make sure European languages are not excluded from AI developments. […]