Xavier Niel, founder, CEO and majority shareholder of telecoms company Iliad, has announced several new projects around AI and told AFP he plans to make strategic investments of up to $210 million (€200 million) in artificial intelligence .
Neil is not just a telco CEO. In addition to Iliad, he also owns Station F, an iconic startup campus in Paris – and a beautiful building – from which hundreds of startups operate. He is the sole backer of Kima Ventures, a seed fund that invests in around a hundred startups every year. One of Iliad’s subsidiaries is Scaleway, a popular European cloud provider.
Iliad and Xavier Neill plan to make AI investments in different ways. First, Iliad has opened a research center in Paris with an initial investment of $105 million (€100 million).
The research center plans to hire researchers who have worked on artificial intelligence and grant grants to PhD students. You can expect to see research papers, private spinouts, and public-private partnerships. Neil will serve as the Chairman of this research centre.
Second, Scaleway is stepping up its game when it comes to GPU and AI cloud solutions. The company acquired 1,016 Nvidia H100 GPUs, which are popular among AI companies like Meta, OpenAI, and Stability AI. These hardware components are both extremely rare and extremely expensive.
According to Iliad, Scaleway is now the largest European cloud provider when it comes to GPU cloud computing capabilities. H100 resources are currently only available in private beta. Scaleway plans to collaborate with Nvidia to bring all of Nvidia’s AI tools and frameworks to the fore.
And finally, Scaleway is launching a European AI conference at Station F. The first edition will take place on 17 November. The company expects to attract more than 1,000 people to the event, with a special focus on engineers and researchers working on AI projects.
With this series of announcements, Xavier Niel wants to send a signal. As private companies increase AI investments in the US and China, he wants to prove that things are about to get serious in Europe too. But it also wants to be at the center of this next wave of innovation.
“When there is a technological revolution we want to be a part of it. 25 years ago, the revolution was the Internet – and we were there. Today, it’s artificial intelligence – and we’re making sure we’re there for that too,” Neal said in a statement.
Neil is an investor in Poolside through his private holding company. This relatively new French AI company is in the process of raising a megaround of funding and relocating to France. Mistral AI, another French AI company that has raised a $113 million seed round, is also backed by Xavier Niel.
And these companies will need GPU resources, AI researchers, and more. In other words, the best way to win the game is to play both sides.