Another artificial intelligence super-unicorn is in town. Hugging Face, a New York-based company providing open-source A.I. developer platforms, has raised $235 million in a series D funding round led by Salesforce that values the startup at $4.5 billion, the company announced today (Aug. 24). Other participating investors included Google (GOOGL), Amazon (AMZN), Nvidia (NVDA), Intel, AMD, Qualcomm, IBM and Sound Ventures. The colossal valuation puts Hugging Face among the highest-valued A.I. startups in the market along with Anthropic and Stability AI, both claiming a private market worth over $4 billion.
Before the latest round, Hugging Face had raised $160 million in venture funding and was valued at $2 billion at the end of a series C round in May 2022. The latest capital infusion brought the company’s valuation to more than 100 times its annualized revenue, according to The Information. Hugging Face didn’t comment on its revenue figure.
Who are the key people at Hugging Face and what’s its product?
Hugging Face was founded in 2016 by French entrepreneurs Clément Delangue, Julien Chaumond, and Thomas Wolf originally to develop a chatbot app targeted at teenagers. Delangue serves as the company’s CEO, and Chaumond is the chief technology officer. Wolf leads the company’s open-source and science teams, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Today, Hugging Face’s main product is a platform for A.I. developers to share open-source code and training models—similar to the way Github lets developers store software code. The company said its platform now hosts more than 50,000 organizations and over a million repositories, including 500,000 models, 250,000 datasets and 250,000 “spaces,” where users and companies create machine learning apps.
All participating investors in the series D funding round are users of Hugging Face’s platform. They have collectively shared over 1,000 open models and datasets with more than 10,000 employees through the platform to collaborate and deploy A.I. models, the company said.
In addition to the developer platform, Hugging Face also makes an original language model called Bloom, a rival of the GPT language model powering ChatGPT. Bloom is a multilingual large language model with 176 billion parameters. The free version of ChatGPT, powered by GPT-3.5, has 175 billion parameters.
Hugging Face is one of the seven A.I. companies that have agreed to open up their A.I. systems for public review as part of a joint effort with the Biden administration to ensure safe and responsible innovation in A.I.
Hugging Face currently has 170 employees. The new funding will be used to “grow the team and invest in more open-source A.I. and platform-building,” the company said.
“My priority for the next month? Hiring, hiring, hiring with a big focus on diversity!” CEO Delangue wrote in a LinkedIn post on Tuesday (Aug. 22).