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Mustafa Suleyman, Co-founder Inflection.ai & DeepMind, speaking on CNBC’s Squawk Box at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 17th, 2024.
Adam Galici | CNBC

Microsoft said Tuesday it has hired former Mustafa Suleyman, a co-founder of artificial intelligence startup DeepMind that Google acquired in 2014, to lead Copilot AI initiatives. Suleyman will become an executive vice president and CEO of Microsoft AI, reporting to CEO Satya Nadella.

Inside Google, DeepMind became a leader in AI research, receiving placement for its work in the journal Nature and extensive media attention. The traction caught the eye of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who sought to counter Google’s rise with the creation of a nonprofit AI lab, OpenAI.

Suleyman left Google parent Alphabet in 2022 and became co-founder and CEO of startup Inflection AI. Karén Simonyan, a co-founder of Inflection and its chief scientist, is joining Microsoft as chief scientist for Microsoft AI, alongside “several” of the startup’s employees, Nadella wrote in a Microsoft memo.

The new Microsoft AI group will work on Copilot, which appears in Bing, Windows and other Microsoft products. Consumer AI products and research will also fall under the group. Mikhail Parakhin, CEO of advertising and web services and head of the team developing Copilot, Bing and Edge, will join the new organization under Suleyman, Nadella wrote. So will Misha Bilenko, corporate vice president of Microsoft generative AI.

“I’ve known Mustafa for several years and have greatly admired him as a founder of both DeepMind and Inflection, and as a visionary, product maker, and builder of pioneering teams that go after bold missions,” Nadella wrote.

DeepMind told CNBC in 2021 that an outside lawyer was looking into concerns from employees about Suleyman’s management style and that took professional development training.

Demis Hassabis, another co-founder of DeepMind, remains at Google DeepMind. Google is one of Microsoft’s largest competitors in AI but has faced a barrage of issues surrounding its Gemini chatbot and image-generation AI.

Google pulled the image-generation feature tool last month following a string of controversies, including historical inaccuracies and contentious responses.

“We have taken the feature offline while we fix that,” Hassabis said last month. “We are hoping to have that back online very shortly in the next couple of weeks, few weeks.” He added that the product was not “working the way we intended.”

Inflection AI, which said last year that Microsoft had invested, employs 76 people, according to LinkedIn data. That makes it much smaller than OpenAI, which remains a key strategic partner to Microsoft. Lately Microsoft has been working to give customers access to AI models from other companies, including French startup Mistral.

Inflection has hired a new CEO, former Mozilla executive Sean White, according to a blog post. Inflection has offered a chatbot called Pi, similar to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. The startup said it will focus on building custom models for commercial clients.

WATCH: We’ve hit ‘peak hype’ of the AI revolution, says DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman

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