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Amazon Acquires Talent from AI Startup Adept

ByHuey Yee Ong

Jul 1, 2024

Amazon Acquires Talent from AI Startup Adept

Amazon has significantly boosted its AI development efforts by hiring top executives from AI startup Adept and licensing its advanced technology. Adept, known for creating AI-powered agents that perform various software-based tasks, will see its co-founders and portions of its team join Amazon. Geekwire first reported this news.

Key executives joining Amazon include Adept co-founder and CEO David Luan, along with co-founders Augustus Odena, Maxwell Nye, Erich Elsen, and Kelsey Szot, as well as other employees.

Adept Continues Operations with New Leadership

Despite these departures, Adept will continue to operate independently. Zach Brock, the head of engineering, will take over as CEO as the startup refocuses on developing “solutions that enable agentic AI.”

Adept’s blog post elaborated that their products will continue to be powered by a combination of their state-of-the-art in-house AI models, agentic data, web interaction software, and custom infrastructure. The decision to license technology to Amazon allows Adept to concentrate on realizing its vision of building practical AI agents without the heavy focus on fundraising necessary for developing their foundation models.

This deal is crucial for Adept, which has been in discussions with Meta and Microsoft regarding potential acquisitions. Microsoft, a previous investor in Adept, was part of these discussions. The agreement with Amazon provides Adept with a vital lifeline, ensuring its continued operation and development.

For Amazon, this acquisition means gaining valuable talent and technology to advance its generative AI goals. Rohit Prasad, Amazon’s Senior Vice President and head scientist of the artificial general intelligence (AGI) unit, highlighted in a memo that David Luan and his team’s expertise in training state-of-the-art multimodal foundational models and building digital agents aligns with Amazon’s objectives. Luan will oversee the AGI Autonomy division and report to Prasad.

How Will Amazon Compete in the AI Market?

Amazon faces intense competition in the AI space, with rivals Microsoft and Google rapidly integrating new AI features into their products and expanding their AI capabilities in the cloud.

Amazon has launched several AI services, although they are generally seen as lagging behind those of its competitors. Amazon has also invested billions in Anthropic, an OpenAI competitor, and is revamping its Alexa voice assistant to include generative AI capabilities. Prasad, previously a key figure in Alexa’s development, was appointed in August to lead Amazon’s AGI initiatives.

Adept’s Background and Challenges

Adept, founded in 2022 by former OpenAI and Google engineers, quickly garnered support from prominent backers such as Nvidia, Atlassian, Workday, and Greylock, raising over $415 million and achieving a valuation of approximately $1 billion. However, Adept has faced challenges, including the early departure of co-founders Ashish Vaswani and Niki Parmar, and difficulties in bringing a product to market despite extensive testing.

The AI agent market, initially less crowded when Adept launched, has become highly competitive with well-funded startups like Orby and Emergence entering the fray. Market research firm Grand View Research estimated the AI agents segment to be worth $4.2 billion in 2022. Amazon’s partnership may help Adept overcome these challenges, although the departure of its executive team raises concerns about its future trajectory, similar to Inflection, another AI startup affected by a significant talent acquisition by Microsoft.

As part of the agreement, Amazon will license Adept’s technology, including multimodal models and some datasets. This non-exclusive license is expected to accelerate Amazon’s roadmap for developing digital agents capable of automating software workflows. Prasad emphasized that the expertise brought by Luan and his team will help Amazon in its mission to deliver practical AI solutions to both consumer and enterprise customers.

Featured Image courtesy of DADO RUVIC/REUTERS

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.

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