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AI21 Labs: Being in Amazon's Bedrock without any investment from Amazon

How AI21 Labs Maintains Independence and Innovation While Collaborating with Amazon, Distinguishing Itself from Industry Giants Like OpenAI


AI21 Labs was the first independent startup to surpass OpenAI’s GPT-3. In September 2021, their Jurassic-1, featuring 178 billion parameters, ignited the 2021 race for ever-larger language models. In the same year, Amazon Web Services (AWS) published a case study highlighting how AI21 Labs optimized their language model using Amazon's EC2 P4d Instances and the PyTorch toolkit.

Strangely enough, AI21 Labs, despite its integration into the AWS ecosystem, hasn’t received investment from Amazon, which contrasts with Amazon's investments in Cohere and Anthropic. This is intriguing given AI21 Labs’ solutions are employed by Amazon's Bedrock.

Is there a generous investment from Amazon coming? Let’s learn more about the startup, which recently joined the GenAI Unicorn Family with a $1.4 billion valuation and has, so far, thrived without Amazon's financial backing.

  1. The starting point of AI21 Labs

  2. Mission: What is AI to AI21 Labs?

  3. Financial situation: six years path to $1.4 B

  4. First products: Practical tools and sophisticated models

  5. Tech behind AI21 labs's most famous products

  6. Founder's views toward AI risks 

  7. How does AI21 labs make money?

  8. Conclusion

  9. Bonus: All important links about the founders

The starting point of AI21 Labs

AI21 Labs was co-founded in 2017 by Prof. Yoav Shoham (Professor Emeritus at Stanford), Ori Goshen (Founder, CrowdX), and Prof. Amnon Shashua (Founder, Mobileye). "AI21 Labs was founded to change and fundamentally improve how people read and write. Pushing the frontier of language-based AI requires more than just pattern recognition offered by current deep language models," CEO Shoham told VentureBeat. 

Shoham met Goshen in an Israeli non-profit project that democratizes programming skills. They found each other like-minded and decided to start AI21 Labs ("AI for the 21st century") to build AI systems "with an unprecedented capacity to understand and generate natural language."

Image Source: CTECH

Amnon Shashua became the Chairman, while Ori Goshen and Yoav Shoham were appointed as Co-CEOs.

After being in stealth mode for about three years, in October 2020 the team launched its first product, Wordtune, an AI-powered writing tool that helps refine and enhance text for clarity, tone, and style in real-time.

As per Goshen, what inspired them to develop a writing productivity tool as a use case is that "The way we write hasn't drastically changed since Microsoft Word in 1980, and the way we read hasn't changed since the printing press in 1440. We believe both can be made AI-first experiences, with the machine becoming a true writing and reading partner."

Mission: What is AI to AI21 Labs?

The lab was founded to become the next big disruptor in the Natural Language Processing (NLP) space to give machines the human-like ability to understand and generate text. Far from seeing machines as a replacement for humans' skills with written symbols that represent our understanding of the world, AI21 Labs views technology as a revolutionary tool.

We believe both writing and reading can be radically transformed by making them AI-first experiences. Machines should work alongside humans and empower them to be better versions of their writing and reading selves.

From AI21 Labs website

Funnily enough, in ancient times (back in June 2022), when OpenAI had not yet announced building a superintelligence, they collaborated with Cohere and AI21 Labs to develop a set of Best Practices for Deploying Language Models. The guidelines were phrased in very grounded language: 'The future of human-machine interaction is full of possibility and promise, but any powerful technology needs careful deployment.’ For example, in the ‘Thoughtfully collaborate with stakeholders’ section, the document suggests building teams with diverse backgrounds, Publicly disclosing lessons learned regarding LLM safety and misuse, and treating all labor in the language model supply chain with respect.

Very good points, right?

Recently, Ori Goshen talked about how people were hyped and scared about generative AI. But he's saying, "There has been a lot of hype – and fear – surrounding generative AI recently, with new exciting tools emerging daily and consumer demand through the roof. The initial fear around AI is starting to wane as the world realizes the benefits. McKinsey recently released a report estimating that AI will boost the world economy by trillions each year."

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Prof. Yoav Shoham 

Ori Goshen

Prof. Amnon Shashua

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