Open-Source Generative AI Model Startup Replicate Raises $40M
Open-source generative AI model platform Replicate has raised $40 million in a Series B funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz. Replicate offers a hub for large language models (LLMs) of all sorts, providing a central library for the rapidly growing number of businesses building products with openly licensed AI models.
Open Model Replication
Replicate provides cloud infrastructure for developers to easily access and deploy leading open-source AI systems. Users can fine-tune models with an array of synthetic media engines, such as Stable Diffusion for images and videos, Llama 2 for text, and Riffusion for music. Indie developers have used Replicate to create AI apps that generate all sorts of content, with Replicate providing the infrastructure supporting those projects.
“The growth in tinkering and building since then has been astonishing,” Replicate CEO Ben Firshman explained in a blog post. “We’ve seen people build autonomous robots, real-time drawing apps, and language model command-line interfaces. We thought it was just going to be startups and indie hackers, but side projects turned into startups which turned into growing startups. Hack projects inside large companies turned into real products.”
The startup claims to have seen staggering demand since launching last year. There are now more than two million registered Replicate users and 30,000 paying customers, including Character AI, BuzzFeed, and Unsplash. Depending on the model, Replicate charges as little as 36 cents or as much as $20 an hour. Nvidia has an arrangement to supply Replicate with differing GPUs as well. And while OpenAI and other proprietary LLMs have driven much of the interest and growth in enterprise generative AI, there’s accelerating demand for open models like those found on Replicate. That divide hasn’t limited investment in Replicate, however. The new round counts Nvidia’s NVentures, Sequoia, Y Combinator, and other major VC firms among its investors.
Open-source generative AI hubs are starting to appear and garner investment. For instance, Together, whose platform enables developers to build apps based on open-source generative AI models, raised $102.5 million in November. That same month saw synthetic media content marketplace Civitai raise $5.1 million.
“The move to open-source is partly practical, but it’s also partly philosophical: people want to own the model weights for their product, in case a proprietary model like GPT-4 changes or gets shut down,” Firshman wrote. “Lots more people are going to be building with open-source language models, and there are some major improvements to language models on Replicate coming soon to support them all.”