French billionaire Xavier Niel pledges to invest up to $210 million in AI | TechCrunch

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Xavier Niel, the founder, CEO and majority shareholder of telecom company Iliad, has announced several new projects around AI and told the AFP that he plans to conduct strategic investments in artificial intelligence of up to $210 million (€200 million).

Niel isn’t just a telco CEO. In addition to Iliad, he is also the owner of Station F, an iconic startup campus in Paris — and a beautiful building — with hundreds of startups working from there. He is the sole backer of Kima Ventures, a seed fund that invests in roughly a hundred startups every year. One of Iliad’s subsidiary is Scaleway, a popular European cloud provider.

Iliad and Xavier Niel plans to make AI investments in different ways. First, Iliad has opened a research center in Paris with an initial investment of $105 million (€100 million).

The research center plans to hire researchers that have worked on artificial intelligence and give grants to PhD students. You can expect to see research papers, private spinouts and public-private partnerships. Niel will act as the chairman of this research center.

Second, Scaleway is upping its game when it comes to GPUs and AI cloud solutions. The company acquired 1,016 Nvidia H100 GPUs, which are quite popular with AI companies, such as Meta, OpenAI and Stability AI. These hardware components are both extremely rare and extremely expensive.

According to Iliad, Scaleway is now the biggest European cloud provider when it comes to GPU cloud computing capabilities. H100 resources are only available in private beta for now. Scaleway plans to collaborate with Nvidia to surface all of Nvidia’s AI tools and frameworks.

And finally, Scaleway is launching a European AI conference at Station F. The first edition will take place of November 17. The company expects to attract more than 1,000 people to this event with a particular focus on engineers and researchers working on AI projects.

With this slew of announcements, Xavier Niel wants to send a signal. As private companies ramp up AI investments in the U.S. and China, he wants to prove that things are also about to get serious in Europe. But he also wants to be the centerpiece of this next wave of innovations.

“When a tech revolution erupts we want to be part of it. 25 years ago, the revolution was internet — and we were there. Today, it’s artificial intelligence — and we’re making sure we’re there for that too,” Niel said in a statement.

Niel is an investor in Poolside through his personal holding company. This relatively new French AI company is in the process or raising a megaround of funding and relocating to France. Mistral AI, another French AI company that raised a $113 million seed round, is also backed by Xavier Niel.

And these companies will need GPU resources, AI researchers and more. In other words, the best way to win a game is by playing both sides.


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