AGI Startup Adept Sheds Top-Level Execs in Amazon Hiring Binge

In a needed boost to its AI credentials, Amazon has poached multiple top executives from artificial general intelligence (AGI) startup Adept.

As first reported by GeekWire, Adept CEO and co-founder David Luan will join Amazon's AGI group, led by senior Amazon vice president and chief scientist, Rohit Prasad. Also making the move from Adept are its other co-founders -- Augustus Odena, Maxwell Nye, Erich Elsen and Kelsey Szot -- as well as "a few other employees."

Amazon has also agreed to pay Adept an undisclosed amount to use the startup's AI models, datasets and technologies.

About 20 employees will stay at Adept, per GeekWire, including its new CEO and erstwhile engineering chief Zach Brock, as well as head of product Tim Weingarten.

Notably, Amazon's move to hire most of Adept's high-ranking executives and license its technologies mirrors Microsoft's so-called "acqui-hire" of AI startup Inflection. Earlier this year, Microsoft hired over 70 Inflection employees, including high-level scientists, to staff its new consumer AI division. Microsoft also paid a reported $650 million to license Inflection's AI models.

These types of roundabout acquisitions, in which a company poaches another's employees without purchasing the company outright, have recently come under fire by competition regulators both in the United States and in the European Union.

According to GeekWire, Adept had been shopping around for potential partners in recent months, making overtures to both Meta and Microsoft. The nearly 3-year-old startup cut its teeth researching and pilot-testing autonomous AI agents that are capable of performing complex, multilayered business tasks -- a mark of AGI. Last year, it raised $350 million in Series B funding, bringing its valuation to north of $1 billion.

With the loss of its co-founders, Adept is now shifting directions. In a statement on Friday that also confirmed the Amazon defections, Adept said its original vision of "building both useful general intelligence and an enterprise agent product would've required spending significant attention on fundraising for our foundation models, rather than bringing to life our agent vision."

Therefore, the startup will now focus exclusively on developing its AI agents, leveraging its "existing state-of-the-art in-house models, agentic data, web interaction software, and custom infrastructure."

Adept's AI agents are included in the product licensing deal it signed with Amazon. In an internal memo obtained by GeekWire, Amazon's Prasad wrote that Adept's agent technology will help Amazon "accelerate our roadmap for building digital agents that can automate software workflows."

Many of the Adept hires will be put to work within Amazon's AI autonomy and automation projects. Their presence is a significant boon to Amazon's AI bona fides, which are widely considered to lag behind those of Google and Microsoft.

That's not for lack of trying, however; Amazon has a robust portfolio of AI and machine learning offerings via its Amazon Web Services cloud platform, including the "Q" AI assistant, the Amazon Bedrock model library, the SageMaker machine learning platform, and AI-optimized GPUs Inferentia and Trainium. Moreover, AI luminary Andrew Ng is a member of Amazon's board of directors. Amazon is also the minority owner of Anthropic, maker of the Claude family of AI models.

About the Author

Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editorial director of Converge360.