Who is Mustafa Suleyman, Microsoft’s new AI chief, and what does his appointment mean for Big Tech?


Who is the DeepMind co-founder and why might his appointment shake up the AI industry? Euronews Next looks at Microsoft’s newest hire.

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Microsoft has announced who will lead its newly-formed artificial intelligence (AI) division, and surprisingly, it will not be OpenAI CEO Sam Altman.

In an unexpected turn of events on Tuesday, the British AI pioneer Mustafa Suleyman, who co-founded DeepMind, Google’s AI development wing, was named as the chief of Microsoft AI.

Who is he and why is the deal between Microsoft and his start-up a bit of a mystery?

Suleyman is 39 years old and grew up in north London. His father is a Syrian taxi driver and his mother is an English nurse. He attended Oxford University but dropped out at the age of 19.

He helped start a telephone counselling service for Muslims and then started a consultancy firm that navigates social issues and works with clients such as the United Nations.

Subsequently, he founded AI company DeepMind Technologies in 2010, which was then sold to Google just four years later for £400 million (almost €470 million).

The latest deal with Microsoft is a likely sting to Google, which is also trying to build its AI arsenal.

Suleyman continued to work with DeepMind until 2019, when according to the Wall Street Journal, he was placed on leave following an investigation into complaints he bullied staff.

The company hired an external lawyer to investigate and afterwards, Suleyman left DeepMind and took on a vice-president role at parent company Google (now Alphabet).

In 2022, Suleyman left Google and co-founded Inflection AI, a new lab that aimed to build an “AI to help humans ‘talk’ to computers”.

Snapping up start-ups

Last year, like many AI companies, Inflection launched a chatbot called “Pi,” which holds dialogues with users and is said to be a friendly personal AI. The start-up raised $1.3 billion (almost €1.2 billion), with Microsoft as the largest shareholder and has a $4 billion valuation.

So what happens to Inflection AI now? Is it just another AI start-up acquisition by Microsoft, which already has OpenAI and Mistral under its belt?

Not exactly, and the reason may be because Microsoft is under scrutiny from both the European Commission and the US’s Federal Trade Commission for potentially breaking competition rules over its deal with OpenAI.

The FTC is also looking at deals between Google and AI start-up Anthropic, as well as Amazon and Anthropic. The EU is likewise looking into Microsoft’s deal with Mistral.

With the watchful eyes of regulators, the naming of Suleyman to become head of Microsoft’s AI division could be a way to lay claim to the company without announcing an official deal.

Microsoft’s press releases say it is an “organisational update” and only “several members” of the Inflection team in addition to the two co-founders are moving to Microsoft.

Meanwhile, the future of Inflection’s Pi chatbot is unclear. The company has hired a new CEO and says it will sell custom bots to companies.

“I’m excited to announce that today I’m joining @Microsoft as CEO of Microsoft AI,” Suleyman said on X.

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“I’ll be leading all consumer AI products and research, including Copilot, Bing, and Edge”.

Whatever the deal or non-deal is, it shows how Big Tech is becoming the boss of AI and in one way or another, is snapping up the start-ups.



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