DeepMind cofounder: Being in London was key to our success

Many startups flock to Silicon Valley in a bid to access talented engineers and the deep pockets of region’s venture capital firms.

But Mustafa Suleyman, cofounder of artificial intelligence lab DeepMind, told an audience at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference this week that being “somewhat removed” from Silicon Valley has worked in his company’s favour.

“One of the things that made us successful as a startup was being in London, and being somewhat removed, you know, [from] the sort of Valley way of doing things,” he said.

DeepMind, which was acquired by Google in 2014 for around £400 million, employs a team of around 250 people at Google’s new office in King’s Cross.

The company, founded in 2010, is aiming to build self-learning AI systems that can help to address some of the world’s biggest problems, including healthcare and climate change.

So far, the company’s algorithms have been successful in mastering arcade games like “Space Invaders” and “Pong” but they’ve also learned how to slash the amount of energy Google uses to cool its data centres.

Google office St Pancras

Foto: DeepMind has two dedicated floors in a new Google office.sourceTim Soar

Scientists and philosophers from the world’s top universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard, have joined DeepMind on its broader mission to “solve intelligence,” as have employees from Google and Facebook.

“It turns out that the very top tier of people can work anywhere they want in the world,” said Suleyman. “They can work in finance and banking, they can work in the Valley, they can go to New York.

“They also want to work with the very best peers, colleagues also, but they want to work on problems that really matter. I think that’s something that’s changing in the last sort of 5-10 years or so, particularly recently, people really want to make a difference in the world. So presenting the opportunity to work on those sorts of problems is something that is very core to our mission and motivation.”

Research published by venture capital firm Balderton Capital this week found that London is home to 300,345 developers, which is more than any other European city.

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