February 26, 2024

Microsoft takes stake in French AI startup Mistral to push its multilingual models

Mistral is the second company to strike a distribution deal with Microsoft, meaning the startup’s models will be available on the tech giant’s cloud computing platform Azure

Paris-based GenAI startup Mistral has today announced a strategic distribution partnership with Microsoft, as it launches its new “multilingual flagship model”, Mistral Large.

The deal sees Microsoft take a small stake in the French startup, Sifted understands, and will mean that Mistral’s AI models will be available on the US tech giant’s cloud computing platform Azure. Mistral is now the second company to forge a distribution deal with Microsoft, which has invested more than $13bn in US startup OpenAI.

Announcing the news, Mistral cofounder and CEO Arthur Mensch said that the company is ”very proud to announce the availability of Mistral Large on Azure AI,” and that “Microsoft's trust in our model is a step forward in our journey to put frontier AI in everyone's hands”.


Multilingual for the win

The move represents some validation of Mistral’s strategy to provide a European alternative to powerful AI models developed in the US, by showing a strong commercial appetite for AI built to be multilingual from the ground up.

According to the company, Mistral Large — a large-language model that can power generative AI technologies like chatbots — is fluent in five languages: French, English, German, Spanish and Italian. OpenAI’s ChatGPT can take prompts in languages other than English, but researchers have found that although the system is good at translating into English, it doesn’t perform as strongly when asked to translate English into other languages.

Mistral says that based on “commonly used benchmarks” its new model is the “world's second-ranking model available through an API alongside GPT-4”.

Europe’s OpenAI

The Paris-based company, which was created in June last year by former Google AI and Meta employees, has made waves in recent months, raising just under €500m since launching. It is one of Europe’s best-funded startups in the space. 

It is considered by some as one of Europe’s strongest competitors to OpenAI and became a prominent critic of the EU’s AI Act, which it said risked putting Europe even further behind in the global AI race.

The partnership with Microsoft comes as European governments stress the need to develop “sovereign” AI technologies that can compete against English-speaking models developed in the US.  

Daphné Leprince-Ringuet

Daphné Leprince-Ringuet is a reporter for Sifted based in Paris and covering French tech. You can find her on X and LinkedIn

Tim Smith

Tim Smith is news editor at Sifted. He covers deeptech and AI, and produces Startup Europe — The Sifted Podcast . Follow him on X and LinkedIn