Mistral AI, embodiment of French hopes in artificial intelligence

In the realm of start-ups, the story of Mistral AI is a fairy tale. In June, the young French artificial intelligence (AI) company made a splash by raising 105 million euros, just a few weeks after its creation, when it still had neither products nor revenues.

And, Monday, December 11, it impressed with a new funding round, of 385 million euros, and a valuation of 2 billion euros, already propelling it into the coveted universe of unicorns, estimated at more than 1 billion euros. ‘euros. ‘euros. The young 31-year-old managing director, Arthur Mensch, has big ambitions: “We are pursuing a clear trajectory: creating a European champion with a global vocation in generative artificial intelligence, based on an open, responsible and decentralized approach to technology. »

Clearly, Mistral AI wants to launch language processing models capable of competing with those of American giants like OpenAI, the creator of the conversational robot ChatGPT, Google or Meta. Moreover, American investment funds – Andreessen Horowitz and LightSpeed ​​​​Ventures – are leading the new fundraising. These are accompanied by Salesforce, BNP Paribas or CMA CGM, plus shareholders from the first round, such as Bpifrance, the La Famiglia fund or Eric Schmidt (former general manager of Google).


The appeal attracted by Mistral AI is linked to the prestigious profile of its team: the three co-founders combine French academic excellence in mathematics and computer science with the experience of American giants leaders in AI: Arthur Mensch went through the Ecole Polytechnique and the Ecole Normale Supérieure, before working for Google DeepMind. The technical director, Thimotée Lacroix, known at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, then Meta, for eight years. He worked on LLaMA, the language processing model of the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, with the scientific director of Mistral AI, Guillaume Lampe, also from Polytechnique.

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The young AI champion enjoys strong political support. “Mistral demonstrates that France has all the assets to master artificial intelligence”, tweeted the Minister for Digital Affairs, Jean-Noël Barrot. “Bravo to Mistral, that’s the French genius”, greeted Emmanuel Macron on Monday during a trip. The President of the Republic had already, in June, during the VivaTech show, shared a stage with Arthur Mensch. Mr. Macron had pleaded for “French champions” of AI and says “share concerns” of Mistral on the draft European regulation, likely, according to him, to “ general innovation”.

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