Japanese startup, Sakana AI, has announced it has raised $30m in funding for AI research and development. The startup was founded in 2023 by former Google Brain research head David Ha and Llion Jones.

Sakana AI’s funding was led by Lux Capital and Khosla Ventures. Lux Capital has previously backed other AI companies including Hugging Face and Runway. 

“Everyone in AI is chasing yesterday’s transformer architectures, and trying to push the boundaries of scaling laws. Lux is always on the quest for what’s next, from where and from whom,” stated Lux Capital co-founder and managing partner Josh Wolfe. 

“Sakana AI being based in Japan with a first focus on Asian markets is unique and important. Lux is very bullish on Japan having one of the largest economies, a giant enterprise software market, and a tech-forward culture,” Wolfe concluded. 

Sakana AI is currently the only Japanese founded AI startup to be backed by Silicon Valley venture capital, as of time of writing, and its founding team includes a former diplomat of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ren Ito. 

According to research by data and analysis company GlobalData, the value of venture financing deals made in AI remains considerably lower than the value of debt financing deals or equity offering. 

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Despite being the only Japanese AI startup to receive backing from Silicon Valley funding so far, the Asia Pacific region remains a dominant force in AI chips. 

In its 2023 executive briefing on AI, GlobalData recorded that the Asia Pacific region accounted for around 60% of the 2022 semiconductor market receiving a total revenue of $371bn. The Americas, including the US, in comparison only achieved $141bn in total revenue. 

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