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Anthropic, a San Francisco-based AI startup and rival to OpenAI, announced today that it has raised $450 million in Series C funding led by Spark Capital, a venture capital firm that has backed companies like Twitter, Slack and Coinbase. The round also included investments from Google, Salesforce Ventures, Sound Ventures, Zoom Ventures, Menlo Ventures, and others.
Founded by former employees of OpenAI, Anthropic will use the new financing to expand its product offerings, scale its AI assistant Claude and conduct research on ways to ensure AI systems behave ethically and avoid potential harms. Anthropic was founded in 2021 to focus on these issues and has become a leader in AI safety research.
Claude, the company’s flagship product, is based on Anthropic’s research into training helpful, honest and harmless AI systems. The company says that Claude is designed to provide reliable AI services that can positively impact businesses and consumers now and in the future. Claude is also more transparent about its behaviors and limitations than other AI systems such as ChatGPT, and can handle adversarial conversations and follow precise instructions.
Claude is accessible through a chat interface and an API in the company’s developer console. Anthropic has been testing Claude with key partners like Notion, Quora and DuckDuckGo in a closed alpha for the past few months. The company says that the feedback from its early customers has been overwhelmingly positive, and that Claude is much less likely to produce harmful outputs, easier to converse with, and more steerable than other AI assistants.
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Anthropic plans to use the new funding to grow its product offerings, support businesses that will responsibly deploy Claude in the market, and further AI safety research. The company is also working on developing new features for Claude, such as 100K context windows, which lets users submit hundreds of pages of materials for Claude to digest and analyze.
As part of the Series C round, Yasmin Razavi, a general partner at Spark Capital who focuses on growth-stage software investments, has joined Anthropic’s board of directors. Razavi said in a statement that she was excited to partner with Anthropic’s mission to build reliable and honest AI systems. She added that Anthropic has assembled a world-class technical team that is dedicated to building safe and capable AI systems.
Despite its focus on ethics, trust and mitigating harm, Anthropic is not completely free from controversy. The company’s biggest investor was at one time — and may still be — Alameda Research, the crypto hedge fund that was intertwined with FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange that collapsed last year amid allegations of fraud and misappropriation.
Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced founder of FTX and Alameda Research, is facing criminal charges for fraud, misappropriation and campaign finance violations related to both companies. According to sources and court documents, Alameda Research used FTX customer funds and FTX’s native token, FTT, to conduct risky trades and borrow money from lenders. When the crypto market plummeted, FTX and Alameda ran out of money and filed for bankruptcy.
The Financial Times reports Alameda Research invested $500 million in Anthropic during a previous funding round prior to filing for bankruptcy. However, Alameda’s investment may be at risk due to its involvement in a bankruptcy case. It is unclear how exactly the bankruptcy case will affect the investment in Anthropic or other companies. Anthropic has since been further validated by investments from other prominent tech companies such as Google, Salesforce and Zoom.
Anthropic declined to comment on its relationship with Bankman-Fried or the money that he committed to the company. “We couldn’t be more happy with our strong momentum, which is recognized by our investors with this significant funding round,” an Anthropic spokesperson said in a statement sent to VentureBeat.
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