Europe’s Answer To ChatGPT

Mistral AI, a startup named after the fabled French Riviera wind, might be Europe’s best hope to compete with OpenAI.

The old continent has missed a few technology coups. It was left behind in the development of semiconductors and internet platforms, and American giants Google, Meta, Amazon, and Microsoft—via OpenAI—are bidding to dominate the artificial intelligence landscape.

But French policymakers are hoping it is not too late to disturb the theater of operations. They declaring their country a “startup nation.”

Mistral, created in February 2023 by three students from elite French schools, has already launched its first AI model, Mistral Large, to compete with OpenAI’s GPT-4. Earlier this year, it introduced its conversational assistant, Le Chat, the European answer to ChatGPT.

CEO Arthur Mensch, 32, knows his competitors well. He spent close to three years at Deep Mind, Google’s lab in Paris, while his co-founders Guillaume Lample and Timothée Lacroix worked at Meta Lab.

Mistral is still considered a lightweight compared to OpenAI, however. The 34-employee company has raised €500 million, while OpenAI, with its 800 employees, has more than $11 billion in funding. But it gets plenty of bang for the buck, its founders argue,

It needed only €20 million to train Mistral Large, compared to more than $50 million for GPT-4. Mistral is multilingual, not overly Anglo-Saxon oriented. And some of the Mistral software is open source, making it attractive to developers and businesses eager to experiment with generative AI. BNP Paribas, which was part of the funding round, is also a customer; the bank is testing Mistral’s capacity to gather data and digest information from analysts and quarterly results. Whatever the obstacles in its way, Mistral is a hit with France’s policymaking elite. French President Emmanuel Macron is celebrating it as an example of “French genius” and pushing its star onto the European stage. And Mensch lobbied successfully for the friendly Artificial Intelligence Act passed by the European Parliament in March. His message: Don’t let Americans establish global standards for other countries.