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Microsoft is initiating an innovative offer amid the AI chip shortage to select startups – free access to influential “supercomputing” resources from its Azure cloud for AI model development.

  • Startup Program Update: Microsoft’s updated startup program, called the Founders Hub, now includes a cost-free Azure AI infrastructure option. This offering focuses on high-end GPU virtual machine clusters based on Nvidia to train and run generative models, including large language models similar to ChatGPT.
  • First Beneficiaries: Y Combinator and its startup community will receive private preview access.
  • YC Priority: Microsoft will work closely with Y Combinator to prioritize requests from their current cohort and alumni as part of this initial preview. The focus is on tasks that enable innovation, such as training and fine-tuning use cases.
  • Precedent: This move is reminiscent of Microsoft’s 2015 initiative, where they offered $500,000 in Azure credits to YC’s Winter 2015 batch, seen as an attempt to lure these startups from rival clouds.
  • Perk Extension: However, the benefit isn’t exclusive to Y Combinator startups. Microsoft is extending access to M12, its venture fund, and the startups in M12’s portfolio. Furthermore, they plan to associate with additional startup investors and accelerators to ensure every promising startup has access to AI model training and reduce barriers.
  • Conditions to the Deal: The access to AI clusters will be “time-bound,” and the intention is to assist startups in testing and trialing rather than running their operations.

Microsoft posits this program as a unique offering in the AI landscape, focused on early-stage startups, enabling them to use Azure credits to run AI workloads. This translates to free GPUs, allowing these startups to drive the next wave of AI innovation.

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