Mustafa Suleiman, co-founder of & DeepMind, speaks on CNBC’s Squawk Box at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland on January 17, 2024.

Adam Galitsi | CNBC

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

At Google, DeepMind became a leader in AI research, receiving space for its work in the journal Nature and widespread media attention. The grip caught the eye of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who tried to counter Google’s rise with the creation of a nonprofit artificial intelligence lab, OpenAI.

Suleiman left Google’s parent company Alphabet in 2022 and became co-founder and CEO of startup Inflection AI. Karen Simonian, Inflection’s co-founder and chief scientist, is joining Microsoft as chief scientist for Microsoft AI, along with “several” of the startup’s employees, Nadella wrote in Note from Microsoft.

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

“I have known Mustafa for several years and greatly admire him as the founder of both DeepMind and Inflection, and as a visionary, product developer, and creator of pioneering teams that pursue bold missions,” Nadella wrote.

DeepMind told CNBC in 2021 that an outside lawyer was looking into employee concerns about Suleiman’s management style and that he had received professional development training.

Demis Hassabis, another DeepMind co-founder, remains at Google DeepMind. Google is one of Microsoft’s biggest rivals in the field of artificial intelligence, but has faced numerous problems surrounding its Gemini chatbot and image-generating artificial intelligence.

Google pulled the image-generating feature tool last month after a series of controversies, including historical inaccuracies and controversial answers.

“We’ve taken the feature offline while we fix this,” Hassabis said last month. “We’re hoping to get it back online very soon in the next couple of weeks, couple of weeks.” He added that the product was not “working the way we intended.”

Inflection AI which said last year, when Microsoft invested, it had 76 employees, according to LinkedIn data. This makes it much smaller than OpenAI, which remains Microsoft’s key strategic partner. Recently, 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 CEO Sean White, according to a blog post. Inflection offered a chatbot called Pi similar to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. The startup said it will focus on building custom models for commercial customers.

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