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Perplexity AI Co-founder Aravind Srinivas is Unfazed by Google; Mocks its Marketing Strategies and Business Model

Perplexity AI Co-founder Aravind Srinivas is Unfazed by Google; Mocks its Marketing Strategies and Business Model

  • Speaking at Axios BFD, a bi-annual dealmakers summit in San Francisco, the Indian American, who spent a year as a research intern at Google, also called it the “biggest loser,” referring to its search engine.

Perplexity AI CEO and co-founder Aravind Srinivas is unfazed by Google’s planned roll-out of AI-summarized search results. The Indian American techie’s startup has offered a popular AI-driven search tool providing similar digests for nearly two years.

Speaking at Axios BFD, a bi-annual dealmakers summit in San Francisco on May 14, Srinivas “gently mocked Google’s marketing resets as it has maneuvered to respond to the popularity of OpenAI’s ChatGPT over the past 18 months,” Axios said. “A year ago, it was called  ‘search generative experience,’” he told Axios’ Kia Kokalitcheva .”Today it’s called ‘AI overview.’ And I bet next year it’ll be called something else. It’s exactly the same story of them doing a new messaging app every year.”

He also took jabs at Google’s business model. “The one thing that Google got wrong is that the same unit of information that stands for truth, which is the links, is also the same unit of information that the advertiser bids on,” he said. “So that’s where there’s a conflict between serving the user and serving the advertiser.”

Srinivas, who spent a year as a research intern at Google’s Deepmind and its headquarters from 2020 to 2021, also called Google the “biggest loser” when referring to their search engine. “In a world where everyone gets answers and doesn’t have to click on links, the biggest loser is Google.”

Perplexity AI recently announced it has “raised an additional $62.7 million, taking its fundraising total to $164 million and valuation to over $1 billion,” Axios said, He also told the publication that it was also “exploring revenue from advertising, but it would try to sell ads more indirectly. Ads should never come at the cost of serving a correct answer.”

In an interview with Marina Mogilko of “Silicon Valley Girl,” published on LinkedIn, Srinivas said “AI startups keep raising more money because you need to hire really smart people, and those people are expensive.”

He told Mogilko that his startup gained recognition as initially the search engine operated with Twitter data. “You could ‘perplex’ a username to obtain an activity analysis,” he told Mogilko. “Users began sharing screenshots, and Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s founder, tweeted about the new startup.”

Explaining how the startup works, he said it “examines search results for your inquiry and returns a direct and accurate answer complete with quotes and links to sources of knowledge.” He added, “The search  engine is based on the Claude 3, GPT-4, and Mistral Large models.”

It’s different from both ChatGPT and Google, he said. Unlike the former, Perplexity “includes links to relevant information sources,” and what sets it apart from the latter is that it “directly answers your question without requiring you to follow any links.”

In a recent podcast hosted by venture capitalists Aarthi Ramamurthy and Sriram Krishnan.on YouTube, and reported by Hindustan Times, Srinivasan revealed he was depressed when he failed to get admission in Computer Science at IIT Madras. He has a BTech and Tech in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. 

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“I was disappointed I didn’t get computer science in IIT Madras,” he told the hosts. “My friends who were training together with me for JEE (Joint Entrance Examination), all got into computer science.  For one year, I was just depressed, and I mostly hung out with them.”

He tried to make the switch to Computer Science from Electrical Engineering after the first semester but fell short by a negligible percentage point. So, he began spending a lot of time on online lectures, and online competitive programming sites and began coding. “I wasn’t talking to anybody else, I was just like absorbing myself and learning all these things myself, trying to solve all these problems,” he said. “As a kid, it was more out of like vengeance – ‘let me prove the world wrong I’m actually good at this’. All that helped me later.”

After acquiring programming language skills, especially Python, he then picked up machine learning. He was rewarded for his efforts when he got an internship with Canadian computer scientist and Turing Award winner Yoshua Bengio who recommended Srinivas for PhD in Computer Science. He got his PhD in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley. 

He worked with Deep Mind and Google, between 2019 and 2021, after the internship with Open AI before returning to Sam Altman’s company in 2021. He co-founded Perplexity in August 2022 with Google researcher Denis Yarats and world champion at competitive programming Johnny Ho.

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