IIT Madras Grad Aravind Srinivas’ Perplexity AI Turns Unicorn With $1.04 Billion Valuation

Even as Indian startups are looking to ride the AI wave, an Indian-origin founder has created an AI unicorn in the US.

AI startup Perplexity has raised $62.7 million in its fourth funding round. The round valued the startup at $1.04 billion, which put Perplexity into the unicorn club. Perpelexity was founded by Aravind Srinivas and others in 2022.

The new funding round saw the involvement of the who’s who of the AI space — it saw participation from NVIDIA, Jeff Bezos, Shopify founder Toby Lutke, OpenAI cofounder and former Tesla executive Andrej Karpathy, Y Combinator CEO Garry Tan, Angel List founder Naval Ravikant, Figma CEO Dylan Field, and Jakob Uszkoreit, who is the coauthor of the Transformers paper which has led to much of the recent AI revolution.

There’s a reason why this startup — founded only 2 years ago — has garnered the attention of some of the world’s top companies and founders. Perplexity AI offers a service similar to ChatGPT, but cites its sources and even directs web traffic to them. This has led some to speculate that Perplexity could be a challenger to Google — instead of receiving 10 blue links to quweries, users can simply get the answers to their questions through its AI, along with online sources to substantiate the information.

Perplexity’s founder Aravind Srinivas, incidentally, is a graduate of IIT Madras, having completed a dual degree in Electrical Engineering from the institute in 2017. He then completed a PhD In Computer Science from University of California, Berkeley, studying AI topics like Computer Vision and Reinforcement Learning. While pursuing his PhD, he interned at the top companies in the AI space, including OpenAI, DeepMind, and Google. He then founded Perplexity AI in 2022. Perplexity currently has an annualized revenue rate of around $20 million, mainly from paid subscriptions to its Perplexity Pro service which offers a search co-pilot and access to LLMs including GPT-4 and Llama-3.

Perplexity has now raised $165 million from some of the biggest names in the AI space. As a newly-minted unicorn, the company might be the biggest AI startup yet with its origins in India. India’s contributions to the field aren’t insignificant — two of the authors of the paper which led to the recent AI revolution were Indian, and India-based startups like Krutrim AI and Sarvam AI have raised significant sums of money. But Perplexity AI, because of both its unique approach to LLMs and the backing of the biggest names in the AI space, could end up becoming the company that creates the greatest impact in the coming years.