As banks dangle their feet in the murky waters of machine learning and spend big money recruiting artificial intelligence professionals for what have so far been uncertain returns, they may want to spare a thought for Google. The tech company has just published the 2018 results for DeepMind Technologies Limited, the British-based artificial intelligence company it bought in 2014. The results show just how costly hiring artificial intelligence expertise can be.
For the year ending in December 2018, DeepMind’s UK wage bill amounted to £400 million (U.S. $485 million), up from £200 million (U.S. $242 million) in 2017 and £105 million (U.S. $127 million) the year before that. Pay is basically doubling every year… snd it’s largely thanks to this that the company had an operating loss of £470 million (U.S. $570 million) last year. Painful.
DeepMind doesn’t say how many people it employs, but its deepening costs appear to come after a period of recruitment. In late 2017, co-founder and CEO Demis Hassabis said the firm had doubled its headcount to 700 over the previous 12 months. Today, LinkedIn says DeepMind employs 838 people, which likely takes into account the 100 people shifted to Google Health when that arm of Alphabet/Google absorbed DeepMind Health in November (something the company says has yet to be reflected in its accounts, suggesting the wage bill hasn’t increased accordingly).
Either way, the implication is that DeepMind pays an average of at least £478,— (U.S. $581,000) per head. That’s pretty generous. Alphabet’s generosity is all the more impressive given that DeepMind’s revenues are diminutive. Last year, the company earned £102 million (admittedly up from £54 million) a year earlier.
The lack of revenues and the high cost of hires isn’t dissuading DeepMind from expanding further in the UK: the company currently has around 55 vacancies in London. If banks and other large firms after deep learning talent want to compete, they may need to raise their game. DeepMind is famous for developing A.I. platforms capable of playing video games with greater skill than human competitors; no doubt it’s working on impressive, world-changing things behind the scenes.
This article originally appeared in eFinancialCareers.