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Even though the focus of the tech industry has shifted to artificial intelligence, companies working in machine learning are still working to maximize the benefits of decentralized technology. UK-based Gensyn AI, which announced $43 million in Series A funding led by a16z crypto on Sunday, aims to empower developers to create AI tools on a pay-as-you-go model.
Gensyn was founded in 2020 by Ben Fielding and Harry Grieve.
"Essentially, Gensyn is a decentralized machine learning compute protocol," Gensyn AI co-founder Ben Fielding told Decrypt.
The idea, Fielding said, is to connect all of the machine learning capable compute hardware in the world that is capable of doing machine learning training work—including GPUs and CPUs—and make it accessible to engineers, researchers, and academics.
The biggest problem, Fielding said, is verifying that the computational task executed on the device has been executed properly.
"That's the big secret sauce behind Gensyn—we've solved that problem for machine learning training specifically," Fielding said.
According to Grieve, Gensyn is a layer one proof-of-stake blockchain based on the Substrate protocol. Layer 1 blockchains refer to a blockchain network, like Bitcoin and Ethereum's base protocol or foundational layer. This layer is where transactions occur, and blocks are added to the chain.
"The benefits of Gensyn are it's unlimited in scale and super low cost in terms of verification overhead," Grieve said.
Others joining a16z in the fundraising round include CoinFund, Canonical Crypto, Protocol Labs, and Eden Block, along with several angel investors.
“We share Harry and Ben’s belief in democratizing AI and ensuring that the massive potential productivity gains are available to any talented entrepreneur who wants to train a new model at scale, and are happy to partner with them on such an important endeavor,” a16z crypto general partner, Ali Yahya, said in a statement.
With the rapid developments in AI since the launch of ChatGPT in November, the term AI is now an industry buzzword, but Grieve said Gensyn AI is, first and foremost, a machine learning company.
"We came from a machine learning and deep learning background. So when we approached it, we didn't approach it like: 'We're in crypto, how do we make this relevant?'" Grieve said. "It was more like: 'We have a very acute machine learning problem that needed a decentralized trust layer.'"
The money, Grieve said, will go toward expanding the Gensyn AI team and production costs, including a test network launch later this year.
“The recent advancements in AI are incredible and have the power to save the world, but substantial computational power requirements give big technology companies an advantage over startups in the race to capture AI’s value," Yahya is quoted as saying in a blog post accompanying the funding announcement. "[We] look forward to partnering with them to make infrastructure for AI much more widely accessible.”
Gensyn is just the latest artificial intelligence investment by the venture capital giant. In March, a16z announced an investment in chatbot developer Character AI with VC’s general partner Sarah Wang joining the startup’s board.
"This raise is a change for us where we're moving from, solving the research problems and knowing what we need to build to make this a reality," Fielding said. "But we realized that what we need to build is massive and requires a lot of resources. This raise and partnering with Andreessen, who is the best partner in the world, will help us build something massive and groundbreaking."
Editor's note: This article was updated after publication to change the formatting of a quote to make it more accurate to the intended meaning.