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AI talent competition heats up in Europe

An AI (Artificial Intelligence) sign is shown during the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai, China July 6, 2023.

LONDON, March 11 (mod1s) - An influx of artificial intelligence (AI) firms is heating up the race for technical talent in Europe, forcing corporations like Google DeepMind (GOOGL.O), opens new tab to choose between paying large or missing out on the region's top brains. 

The overwhelming success of OpenAI's ChatGPT has energized investors, who have been pouring money into potential AI businesses, anxious to unearth the next overnight breakthrough. 

Riding the funding trend, a crop of international AI businesses - including Canada's Cohere and U.S.-based Anthropic and OpenAI - built operations in Europe last year, adding to pressure on IT companies already seeking to attract and retain talent in the area.

Founded in 2010 and purchased by Google in 2014, London-based DeepMind earned its mark applying AI to everything from board games to structural biology. 

Now the business has a multitude of well-funded competitors entering its market, while an increasing number of its workers have resigned to create their own enterprises. 

Recent high-profile departures include co-founder Mustafa Suleyman, who departed to establish up California-based Inflection AI with LinkedIn billionaire Reid Hoffman, and research scientist Arthur Mensch, now CEO of Mistral AI. Both firms have garnered multi-billion dollar values in the short period they have been operational.

In an apparent attempt to deter personnel from joining other businesses or forming their own, DeepMind provided a few of top researchers access to restricted shares, worth millions of dollars, early this year, according to a source familiar with the subject. 

"It's a competitive space for sure," a DeepMind spokeswoman told Reuters, adding that the business "continues to do well in attracting and nurturing talent".\

CLOSING THE GAP 

According to executive recruitment agency Avery Fairbank, there has been a "exponential increase" in salary for C-suite personnel at AI businesses in Britain over the previous year. 

"The entrance of foreign AI giants such as Anthropic and Cohere into London's market will further escalate the competition for AI talent," said Charlie Fairbank, the firm's managing director. 

Executives on basic incomes of roughly 350,000 pounds have seen compensation packages surge between 50,000 and 100,000 pounds, he claimed.

Cohere, which builds in-house chatbots and other tools for its clients, appointed Phil Blunsom, a key researcher at DeepMind for seven years, as its chief scientist in 2022. 

Sebastian Ruder also joined Cohere from DeepMind in January. 

"It's rare to find a company building a massive business from scratch, with many of the leading minds in the industry," he told Reuters. "When that kind of chance comes along, you take it." 

Ruder refused to answer when questioned about his remuneration. 

Ekaterina Almasque, a general partner at venture financing company OpenOcean, claimed DeepMind was no longer the "distant leader in the field". 

"All these companies are competing for the same pool of talent, and with the AI skills shortage, that's increasingly more of a pond than an ocean." 

Suleyman recently begun hiring London-based technical personnel for Inflection AI, while Mensch's Mistral has swiftly become one of the buzziest businesses on the continent, earning $415 million in venture capital in December. 

Mistral refused to comment and Inflection did not reply to a request for comment. 

MORE INFLUENCE 

OpenAI built its first foreign office in London last year followed immediately by a second in Dublin - "just the first steps", says the company's Vice President of People Diane Yoon, as it expects to continue growing into additional nations. 

Cohere launched its UK office last year and CEO Aidan Gomez told Reuters he is now sharing his time between his home Toronto and London, where the business wants to grow its employment to 50. 

"We go where the talent is, and there's a lot in London and across Europe," Gomez added. 

The talent battle implies workers are more well-placed to make demands of their potential employers. 

London-based AI audio business ElevenLabs is offering new staff stock options, attractive wages and fully-remote working, however most listed opportunities state that employees should be situated in Europe. 

Having just secured $80 million in investment from venture capital companies including a16z and Sequoia, the business told Reuters it will shortly quadruple its overall employment to 100. 

Paris-based firm Bioptimus, also formed by former DeepMind workers, received $35 million in February. 

Thomas Clozel, an early investor in the business claimed startups were attempting to entice people from Big Tech like Google by providing them greater control over a company's destiny. 

"Google is one of the best at what it does and produces some of the best talent," he added. "At a smaller startup, you have a unique opportunity to remain true to the work you are passionate about and have a stake in the success of the company."


Source: https://www.reuters.com/

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