(Bloomberg) -- Hugging Face Inc., a startup that makes artificial intelligence software and hosts it for other companies, said it has been valued at $4.5 billion after raising $235 million in funding.
Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Amazon.com Inc., Nvidia Corp., Intel Corp., Salesforce Inc. and others participated in the funding round, the company said Thursday. Hugging Face now has raised a total of $395 million, Chief Executive Officer Clement Delangue said in an interview.
The deal reflects investors’ enthusiasm for pushing money into AI startups and rising interest from across the tech community in open source and freely available AI software. Founded in 2016, Hugging Face’s platform is a popular place for companies and individuals to share AI models that others can use, including from Google, Microsoft Corp. and Meta Platforms Inc. The startup also builds its own AI tools and models, such as IDEFICS, which can generate text based on short written prompts and images.
The company plans to use the cash in part to add more people to its team, Delangue said. Hugging Face had 170 employees as of late August.
“We want to make sure we are here and betting on the long-term for the next 10 years. However, we will use some of this money to keep growing,” Delangue said in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “Hiring in AI is now very competitive, especially for the best people in science and engineering that we are looking for.”
Some details of the funding round were previously reported by The Information, and Salesforce Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff confirmed his company’s participation in a post on X, the social network formerly known as Twitter.
Hugging Face said it hosts more than 500,000 AI models and 250,000 datasets. The company lets users post models and datasets and access those added by others for free. It makes money by charging for features such as access to computing power and higher levels of customer support. Delangue said Hugging Face currently has 10,000 paying customers.
--With assistance from Ed Ludlow.
(Updates to add CEO’s comment in fifth paragraph.)
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