French start-up Mistral AI has raised €385 million

Mistral AI, the French artificial intelligence start-up created in May by industry leaders, announced on Sunday December 10 that it had raised 385 million euros, thus becoming one of the two AI champions in Europe

French start-up Mistral AI has raised €385 million

Mistral AI, the French artificial intelligence start-up created in May by industry leaders, announced on Sunday December 10 that it had raised 385 million euros, thus becoming one of the two AI champions in Europe. “Since the creation of Mistral AI in May, we have followed a clear ambition: to create a European champion with a global vocation in artificial intelligence,” declared its boss, Arthur Mensch, quoted in the group’s press release.

After the 105 million already raised in June, this second round of financing values ​​the company at around 2 billion dollars (1.86 billion euros), according to financial sources, which propels it among the French unicorns, these companies of tech valued at more than 1 billion euros. In Europe, only the German Aleph Alpha is so richly endowed, having raised nearly 500 million euros in early November.

The emergence of European AI players comes as the European Union (EU) has just agreed on Friday on future regulation of the sector, without restricting European innovation. France and Germany feared that excessive regulation would nip their emerging champions in the bud.

Among the backers of Mistral AI are the American software publisher Salesforce, the bank BNP Paribas, the transport company CMA CGM, the start-up indicates in its press release. According to industry sources, the Nvidia group, a global specialist in supercomputer chips, is also involved.

Xavier Niel, Rodolphe Saadé and Eric Schmidt for shareholders

Succeeding in mobilizing the biggest players in Silicon Valley demonstrates the enthusiasm generated by Mistral AI in less than a year of existence. The American press already cites it as a potential rival to Open AI, the origin of ChatGPT. Like many of its competitors, Mistral AI, which now has 22 employees, most of them engineers with expertise in artificial intelligence, offers companies “open source” language models powered by public data.

Its main asset is to have been co-founded by three French AI experts, trained at X or at the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS), hired by the American giants but returned to Paris. The CEO, Arthur Mensch, 31, a polytechnician and normalien, spent almost three years at DeepMind, Google's AI laboratory. His associates come from Meta (Facebook): Guillaume Lample is one of the creators of the LLaMA language model, unveiled by Meta in February, and Timothée Lacroix was also a researcher at Meta.

Since its creation, Mistral AI has conquered French political and economic circles. In June, Arthur Mensch was alone with Emmanuel Macron on the stage of Vivatech, the major European tech show. From its first round, led by the American fund Lightspeed Venture, several big bosses looked into its cradle: Xavier Niel, the owner of Free (and personal shareholder of Le Monde), Rodolphe Saadé, the boss of CMA CGM , as well as former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

The government is visibly attentive to this new player, of which former Secretary of State for Digital Cédric O is “co-founding advisor”. Cédric O can defend the start-up to the top of the State, since he is also a member of the interministerial committee on generative AI created in September by Elisabeth Borne.

Europe has so far been largely overtaken by the United States in the race for AI. Open AI and its flagship product ChatGPT, funded by Microsoft, has raised several billion dollars. Its rivals are none other than Google, which has just released its Gemini model, as well as Amazon and Meta. Mistral AI's fundraising is all the more notable as funding plummeted in 2023. This is the second record of the year in France, after the 850 million euros raised by the electric battery manufacturer Verkor in September .