The embedding model market is heating up
Plus: investors face an old foe in next-generation AI startups, and Dbt formalizes the semantic layer into something production-grade.
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Now, on to the actual issue!
Embedding models come to the forefront
Embeddings play a critical role in AI, and stand to become even more important thanks to the increased popularity of retrieval augmented generation (or RAG). RAG has emerged as a mechanism to provide both a layer of governance on the output of data in a prompt by tracing information back to the source, as well as helping to combat hallucinations from model prompts.
That requires companies to embed information from unstructured data (like documents) in a vector database in some searchable format that can then get pushed into a prompt. That embedded information provides examples of how to do something or information to retrieve to use in the final prompt. And it’s been kind of an under-appreciated potential business given all the focus has largely been on inference APIs like GPT-4 and reasoning tools like LangChain.
But there’s growing momentum here. And if RAG ends up being one of the necessary implementations in model inference, every company will probably end up using an embedding tool in some fashion. The new TEI shows just another push by the company that owns the most popular open source AI packages to try to formalize this into more of a first-class citizen.
In fact, one of the openings that many sources I’ve talked to over the past months is whether a startup would (or could) actually snap up a market for production-grade embeddings in a similar fashion to how some of the model inference startups like Replicate or Together have grown in popularity. (Replicate for example offers some embedding APIs with a price-per-second for GPUs approach.)
The most popular embedding model is OpenAI’s ada-002 embedding model. It’s priced at $0.0001 per 1,000 tokens, which follows a drastic 75% price cut that happened in June earlier this year. (It was kind of funny timing given I had just had a conversation with someone who commented that they loved ada, but wished it weren’t so expensive, a few days before this.)