Cohere, a Toronto artificial intelligence start-up, has raised $250 million in new funding, two people with knowledge of the situation said, in yet another sign of feverish interest in a new kind of A.I. technology.
The deal values Cohere at about $2 billion, the people said. Investors include the internet software giant Salesforce, the chip maker Nvidia, the Toronto venture capital firm Inovia Capital and the Silicon Valley firm Index Ventures.
The start-up, which was founded in 2019, previously raised $170 million from investors including Index, Tiger Global and the well-known A.I. researchers Geoffrey Hinton, Fei-Fei Li and Pieter Abbeel.
Cohere builds technology that other businesses can use to deploy chatbots, search engines and other A.I.-driven products. It is among a small group of companies — including the tech industry’s giants and a handful of start-ups — that are building technology that could rival systems under development at OpenAI, the San Francisco start-up that kicked off the generative A.I. boom in November with the release of the chatbot ChatGPT.
Cohere was founded by Aidan Gomez and Nick Frosst, two Canadian researchers who had worked on artificial intelligence at Google, and Ivan Zhang, a Toronto entrepreneur. Mr. Gomez was among the Google researchers who published a key research paper that helped lead to ChatGPT and similar technologies.
ChatGPT has captured the imagination of millions of people with its ability to do things like answer questions, write term papers and poetry, and generate computer code. As the chatbot’s popularity has grown, the tech industry has focused on generative artificial intelligence — technologies that can generate text, images and other media in response to short prompts.
Many companies are exploring the fringes of this new area, but only a few have the resources to build the technologies from the ground up. These companies have an unusual blend of experienced researchers, enormous ambition and large amounts of money.
Though investors have been reluctant to fund other start-ups, they have been pouring money into the few companies at the forefront of generative A.I.
In February, Microsoft invested $10 billion in OpenAI, bringing its total investment in the company to $13 billion. And in March, Character.ai, another start-up that builds online chatbots, raised $150 million in a funding round that valued the company at $1 billion.
The result of more than a decade of research inside companies like OpenAI, generative A.I. companies are poised to remake everything from internet search engines like Microsoft Bing to digital tutors.