IBM has announced plans to take part in a $235 million series D funding round of the open source and open science artificial intelligence platform Hugging Face.
Other companies involved in the investment included Google, Amazon, Intel, and Salesforce. The funding round was led by Salesforce Ventures, according to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. Hugging Face CEO Clem Delangue said the round has taken Hugging Face’s value to $4.5 billion, more than double 2022’s valuation of $2 billion.
The investment and valuation is an indicator of the appetite for AI companies in the marketplace and the development of the technology by investors.
Delangue used the investment round to celebrate the crossing of 1,000,000 models, datasets, and apps on the platform.
Of the investors, he said: “These partners alone shared over 1,000 open models and datasets and have over 10,000 users on Hugging Face already. It takes a village to democratize good machine learning with open source and we’re just getting started!”
Delangue’s plan for the investment is growth. He said: “My priority for the next month? Hiring, hiring, hiring with a big focus on diversity!”
Hugging Face is an interesting organization in the AI space. Where some companies take care to protect their AI models and charge for access, the Hugging Face model is more about collaboration, with datasets and applications shared among the community.
That said, Hugging Face has chargeable options. Its Enterprise Hub, for example, starts at $20 per user per month and provides SSO and SAM support as well as storage location options - a significant feature for customers facing regulatory oversight.
Charging extra for access to more compute power and customer support represents an important revenue stream for the company, even if its revenues are far below its current valuation.
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Its Hub, however, remains “forever” free and includes unlimited models, datasets, and spaces.
The news follows IBM - in collaboration with NASA - open sourcing a large geospatial AI foundation model available on Hugging Face. IBM and Hugging Face also announced plans in May to collaborate on watsonx.ai, an enterprise studio aimed at AI builders to train, validate, and tune both traditional machine learning models and newer generative AI capabilities powered by foundation models.
Hugging Face has also collaborated with other tech giants. For example, in May 2023, it announced plans to bring open source models from the Hugging Face Hub to Aure Machine Learning. Earlier in August, a partnership with NVIDIA was announced to give developers access to NVIDIA DGX Cloud AI supercomputing within the Hugging Face platform.
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Richard Speed is an expert in databases, DevOps and IT regulations and governance. He was previously a Staff Writer for ITPro, CloudPro and ChannelPro, before going freelance. He first joined Future in 2023 having worked as a reporter for The Register. He has also attended numerous domestic and international events, including Microsoft's Build and Ignite conferences and both US and EU KubeCons.
Prior to joining The Register, he spent a number of years working in IT in the pharmaceutical and financial sectors.