Amazon Takes a Big Stake in the A.I. Start-up Anthropic

Amazon said on Monday that it would invest up to $4 billion in the artificial intelligence start-up Anthropic, as the world’s biggest technology companies race to benefit from A.I. breakthroughs that could reshape parts of their businesses — and the economy as a whole.

Amazon is trying to keep pace with rivals such as Microsoft and Google, which have each poured billions of dollars into A.I. research. Anthropic, seen as one of the most promising of a batch of A.I. start-ups, will use Amazon’s data centers, cloud-computing platform and A.I. chips.

The deal underscores the frenzy to be at the forefront of A.I., a technology that has seized the public’s imagination and has the power to potentially transform the way people work and live. As part of that race, tech giants have been teaming with up-and-coming A.I. start-ups by providing them with computing power and cash to help them develop new models and applications. Google has also invested in Anthropic, while Microsoft has poured $13 billion into OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT.

Amazon’s investment of up to $4 billion would give it a minority stake in Anthropic, it said.

Like OpenAI, Anthropic is a developer of so-called generative A.I., the technology capable of learning from vast amounts of data to create humanlike texts and images. These tools are seen as possessing the potential to automate many tasks, reshaping aspects of the global economy.

Anthropic, which operates a chatbot called Claude, has sought to position itself as one of the industry’s more responsible actors. Its executives have warned that A.I. could cause tremendous damage to society if not developed carefully. The company’s co-founder Jack Clark attended a recent meeting on Capitol Hill to discuss A.I. policy, including the risks and potential of the rapidly evolving technology.

Working with Anthropic also helps Amazon, which is competing against Microsoft and Google in cloud computing and has been trying to establish itself more deeply in artificial intelligence. Amazon is also battling Nvidia as a provider of the chips needed to run complex A.I. systems.

The huge amounts of money and computing power needed to run A.I. models have made it nearly impossible for smaller companies to remain independent from established tech giants with deep pockets.

Anthropic’s partnership with Amazon is also another example of a new kind of circular business arrangement that can be mutually beneficial to both cloud computing companies and A.I. start-ups.

Anthropic will pump much of the money it’s raising from Amazon back into the company as it pays for time on the massive clusters of computer servers operated by the Seattle tech giant. So while Amazon is making a strategic investment in a start-up, it is also feeding its own cloud-computing business, which now accounts for more than 70 percent of its profits.

Microsoft first created this kind of deal with OpenAI in 2019. In recent months, other cloud computing companies, including Google and Oracle, have made similar arrangements with ambitious A.I. start-ups.

While Microsoft and Google have also launched their own online chatbots in the months since OpenAI unveiled ChatGPT, Amazon has not followed suit. Instead, it has worked to provide various tools for companies and independent developers looking to build their own chatbots and other A.I. technologies.

In addition to boosting its cloud computing revenues, Amazon’s agreement with Anthropic could raise its profile in the field and fuel the development of new A.I. technologies inside the tech giant.

“We can help improve many customer experiences, short- and long-term, through our deeper collaboration,” Andy Jassy, Amazon’s chief executive, said in a statement.

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