Chelsea_SunChelsea_Sun ・ Jul. 4, 2024
Investors Pump $27.1 Billion Into A.I. Start-Ups as U.S. Investment and Financing Surge by 57% in Q2
Funding for A.I. firms made up nearly half the $56 billion in U.S. start-up financing from April to June, according to PitchBook.

 

AsianFin--Over the past two years, many unprofitable tech startups in the United States have cut expenses, sold themselves, or shut down. However, those focusing on artificial intelligence (AI) have flourished. The AI boom that began in late 2022 has emerged as a strong counterpoint to the broader downturn in startups.

According to PitchBook, which tracks startups, investors funneled $27.1 billion into AI startups in the United States from April to June, making up nearly half of all U.S. startup funding during that period. In total, U.S. startups raised $56 billion, a 57% increase from a year earlier and the highest quarterly total in two years.

AI companies are attracting large funding rounds reminiscent of 2021 when low interest rates led investors to take more risks on tech investments.

In May, CoreWeave, a cloud computing service provider for AI companies, raised $1.1 billion, followed by $7.5 billion in debt, reaching a valuation of $19 billion. Scale AI, a data provider for AI companies, raised $1 billion, valuing it at $13.8 billion. Elon Musk’s xAI raised $6 billion, valuing it at $24 billion.

Kyle Stanford, a research analyst at PitchBook, said these financing rounds have boosted the industry’s overall deal-making by both dollar amount and number of deals.

“It’s not declining anymore,” he noted. “The bottom has already fallen out.”

This activity has led some venture capital investors to revise their outlook. Last year, Tom Loverro, an investor at IVP, predicted a “mass extinction event” for startups and urged them to cut costs. Last week, he declared that era over, calling this period the “Great Reawakening,” and encouraged companies to “pour gas” on growth, especially in AI.

“The AI train is leaving the station & you need to be on it,” he wrote on X.

The startup downturn began in early 2022 as many money-losing companies struggled to grow as quickly as they had during the pandemic. Rising interest rates also drove investors toward less risky investments. To make up for dwindling funding, startups cut staff and scaled back their ambitions.

Then in late 2022, OpenAI, a San Francisco AI lab, sparked a new boom with the release of its ChatGPT chatbot. The excitement around generative AI technology, which can create text, images, and videos, triggered a surge in startup creation and funding.

“Sam Altman reversed the recession,” joked Siqi Chen, founder of the startup Runway Financial, referring to OpenAI’s CEO. Chen said his company, which makes finance software, was growing faster than it otherwise would have because “AI can do the job of 1.5 people.”

However, despite AI’s efficiency improvements, building AI is expensive. AI-focused startups require vast amounts of powerful computer chips and cloud storage. An analysis by accounting and tax advisory firm Kruze Consulting of 125 AI startups showed that these companies spent an average of 22% of their expenses on computing costs in the first three months of the year—more than double the 10% spent by non-AI software companies during the same period.

“It’s no wonder VCs are throwing money into these companies,” said Healy Jones, Kruze’s vice president of financial strategy. While AI startups are growing faster than other startups, “they clearly need the money.”

For investors backing fast-growing startups, there is minimal downside to being wrong about the next big thing but substantial upside in being right. AI’s potential has generated tremendous hype, with prominent investors and executives predicting that the AI market will surpass those of smartphones, personal computers, social media, and the internet.

Stanford of PitchBook noted that competition from big tech companies like Microsoft and Amazon might also impact AI startups’ ability to raise massive funds. Large deals like the one struck by xAI are exceptions and are unlikely to be repeated in the second half of the year.

“That can’t happen forever,” he said.

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