A|I: The AI Times – Google launches its hopeful GPT-4 killer 

Plus: "Gentle Canadian" @BasedBeffJezos raises $14M for AI hardware startup.

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Founded by Alphabet alums, Canadian-led AI hardware startup Extropic secures over $14 million

Canadian-led, United States-based Extropic has closed $14.1 million in seed funding to build “physics-based computing” hardware for generative artificial intelligence (AI).

Extropic founder and CEO Guillaume Verdon described the technology that Extropic is developing as “a novel full-stack paradigm of physics-based computing” capable of scaling generative AI, but was light on the details of how that would look in reality.

Earlier this month, Verdon was outed by Forbes as the person behind the X account @BasedBeffJezos, one of the leaders of the “effective accelerationism” or ‘e/acc’ movement within the tech community, which wants to speed up technological progress, especially in AI. Andreessen Horowitz co-founder Marc Andreessen has described @BasedBeffJezos as one of the “patron saints of techno-optimism.”


The OpenAI Board Member Who Clashed With Sam Altman Shares Her Side

We’re a bit closer to understanding why Sam Altman, now named TIME’s CEO of the year, was fired from OpenAI. 

Helen Toner, one of the four board members who fired Altman, co-wrote a paper on AI safety. The paper said OpenAI’s launch of ChatGPT sparked a “sense of urgency inside major tech companies” and that OpenAI competitor Anthropic avoided “stoking the flames of AI hype.”

After publication, Altman confronted Toner, saying she had harmed OpenAI by criticizing the company so publicly. Altman approached other board members, trying to convince each to fire Toner. Already holding concerns over Altman’s honesty, board members compared notes and realized Altman left a misleading perception that another board member thought Toner should leave. 

The Washington Post also reported that a small number of senior leaders approached the OpenAI board, alleging Altman had been psychologically abusive.

The complaints triggered a review of Altman’s conduct, in which the board weighed the devotion Altman had cultivated among factions of the company against the risk that OpenAI could lose key leaders who found interacting with him highly toxic. 


FinChat secures $1.5 million USD from Social Leverage to expand AI-powered stock research platform

Earlier this year, Toronto-based FinTech startup Stratosphere decided to jump on the generative artificial intelligence (AI) trend. Stratosphere launched FinChat in April 2023, and the platform quickly exploded in popularity.

Now armed with $1.5 million USD in seed funding, FinChat has built a subscription-based public equity research platform. The startup offers a self-serve product for “sophisticated, self-directed” retail investors and professional portfolio managers.


Google launches Gemini, the AI model it hopes will take down GPT-4

It’s the beginning of a new era of AI at Google, says CEO Sundar Pichai: the Gemini era. Google Deepmind’s in-house flagship AI model shows its clearest advantage over GPT in its ability to understand and interact with video and audio, which Pichai shared in a video on his Twitter.

The video, which seemed to represent a fluid and dynamic conversation with Gemini as it described moving and still pictures, wowed social media. However, Parmy Olson writes that the voice in the demo was reading out human-made prompts they’d made to Gemini, and showing them still images. 

Olson also points out that as Google points to benchmarks showing Gemini outperform GPT-4 by a slight margin, OpenAI has had almost a year to work on its next AI model, GPT-5.


EZee Assist reveals $1.85 million in funding to help franchises manage institutional memory

EZee Assist wants to make it easier for franchise and hub-and-spoke businesses to share internal, often critical, but difficult-to-access operational knowledge.

Founded earlier this year, the Toronto-based software startup has closed $1.85 million CAD in previously unannounced pre-seed funding to tackle this problem with the help of generative artificial intelligence.


Brave steps, new world: Canada seeks its place in the AI future

As powerful nations and firms compete for AI leadership, Canada hopes to turn its heritage in the field into financial rewards while taking a prominent role in governance of the technology. Policymakers, founders and funders insist the country can profit from AI, even as we manage its risks. But while Canada already has talent, companies and regulatory proposals, there’s plenty left to do.


Bianca Bharti joins BetaKit as newsletter editor

BetaKit is thrilled to announce that Bianca Bharti has joined BetaKit’s editorial team as its first-ever newsletter editor.

As newsletter editor, Bianca will be in charge of accelerating BetaKit’s flagship newsletter, and will play a key role in defining and growing our editorial capabilities within the format.

BetaKit is on a mission to connect, interrogate, and inform Canadian tech. If you believe in this mission the way we do, join us: BetaKit is hiring a new senior editor and a permanent CEO, with more roles to be announced in the New Year.


Fidelity Backs AI Infrastructure Startup at $9 Billion-Plus Valuation

Vast Data, an AI software and storage startup backed by Nvidia, raised a new funding round led by Fidelity Investments which values Vast Data at more than $9 billion, compared to its valuation of $3.7 billion set in 2021.

The 600-person company is one of a number of startups building digital or physical infrastructure for AI-focused apps that has gotten a lift from the rise of ChatGPT. Vast expects to pull in more than $100 million in revenue this year, more than triple last year’s sales, one of the people said.


Advice on fundraising and living in the future from Huntress CFO Marcos Torres

Building a business is an exercise in living in the future, according to Marcos Torres, CFO of managed cybersecurity platform Huntress.

In a recent #CIBCInnovationBanking podcast episode, Torres shared his advice for founders who want the best chance of success in difficult times.


Elon Musk’s X.ai aims to raise $1 billion

X.ai, Elon Musk’s new artificial intelligence company, appears to have raised at least $134.7 million out of a $1 billion target, per a new SEC filing.

The revelation comes as Musk’s X (formerly Twitter) rolls out its “rebellious” AI chatbot, named Grok, to subscribers.


OpenAI Rival Mistral Nears $2 Billion Valuation With Andreessen Horowitz Backing

Mistral AI is in the final stages of raising roughly €450 million ($487 million) from investors including Nvidia and Salesforce in a funding round that values the OpenAI rival at about $2 billion, according to people familiar with the deal.

Mistral makes open-source software that powers chatbots and other generative AI tools, a field that requires considerable computing resources. It describes itself as less expensive and more efficient than US peers.


From Unicorns to Zombies: Tech Start-Ups Run Out of Time and Money

WeWork raised more than $11 billion in funding as a private company. Olive AI, a health care start-up, gathered $852 million. Convoy, a freight start-up, raised $900 million. And Veev, a home construction start-up, amassed $647 million.

In the last six weeks, they all filed for bankruptcy or shut down. They are the most recent failures in a tech start-up collapse that investors say is only beginning.

“As an industry we should all be braced to hear about a lot more failures,” said Jenny Lefcourt, an investor at Freestyle Capital. “The more money people got before the party ended, the longer the hangover.”


Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl is a staff writer and newsletter curator at BetaKit with a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University. He's interested in tech, gaming, and sports. You can find out more about him at alexriehl.com or @RiehlAlex99 on Twitter.

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