Who is Mustafa Suleyman? Meet Microsoft's new AI expert

What will the pioneer and 'serial tech entrepreneur' do for the American giant?

Mustafa Suleyman at the CogX Festival in London. Matthew Davies / The National
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In an age where tech leaders and entrepreneurs receive the attention once reserved for film stars and world leaders, Microsoft's announcement that it had hired British AI expert Mustafa Suleyman rightly made waves.

On his website, Mr Suleyman describes himself as a “serial tech entrepreneur”, and that's not an exaggeration.

His CV speaks for itself. His rise to fame and some of his entrepreneurial ventures coincide with the artificial intelligence revolution the world is seeing.

In 2010, well before AI was on the tip of almost every tech pundit's tongue, he founded DeepMind, a London-based AI research company which created a buzz in tech circles.

DeepMind's AI research put it ahead of the curve, making it the envy of established tech titans such as Google, which acquired the company in 2014. Following the acquisition, he became a heavy hitter at the internet search company and served as vice president of AI products and AI policy.

Most recently, Mr Suleyman served as co-founder and chief executive of Inflection AI, an AI consumer technology company which boasts AI Pi, which, it says, allows more than six million people to use AI “with world class personality and empathy”.

On Tuesday, Mr Suleyman added another accolade to his CV, when he posted on X that he will be joining Microsoft as chief executive of Microsoft AI.

“I'll be leading all consumer AI products and research, including Copilot, Bing and Edge,” he wrote on the social media platform, noting that his “friend and longtime collaborator” Karen Simonyan would also be joining him in the role of chief scientist.

Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella wasted no time in welcoming Mr Suleyman into the Redmond, Washington-based technology behemoth's ranks.

“Thrilled to have you lead Microsoft AI as we build consumer AI, like Copilot, that is loved by and benefits people around the world,” Mr Nadella posted on X.

Microsoft is no stranger to the AI sector and has been betting big on the potential of growth it offers. It already has forged a long-term partnership through a multibillion dollar investment in ChatGPT-maker OpenAI.

Mustafa Suleyman's AI influence

Given his ability to ride the AI wave, as well as being no stranger to many of the global tech behemoths, it's no surprise that Mr Suleyman is also represented by Creative Artists Agency, which has some of the world's most prominent athletes, celebrities and tech stars on its books.

Last year, his book, The Coming Wave: Technology, Power, and the Twenty-first Century, worked its way on to The New York Times bestseller list. There's one overwhelming message his book delivers and that is the need for society not to look away from AI, but be prepared for it.

“Properly addressing this wave, containing technology and ensuring that it always serves humanity means overcoming pessimism aversion. It means facing head-on the reality of what's coming,” he wrote.

“Some people may understandably expect a more techno-utopian book from someone like me, a founder of two AI companies. As a technologist and entrepreneur, I am, by default, an optimist … but I also believe that those of us driving technology's creation must have the courage to predict – and take responsibility for where it might take us in the decades to come.”

At the 2024 World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos, Mr Suleyman took to the stage with International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva and Dmytro Kuleba, Foreign Minister of Ukraine, among other leaders and officials, for a discussion on the global implications of AI.

He was asked specifically if the technology industry's calls for AI regulation were genuine.

“I think those calls are sincere, but I think we are all a bit confused,” he told CNBC in Davos. “This is going to be the most transformational moment, not just in technology, but in culture and politics for all of our lifetimes.

“It [AI] will be widely available to everybody, potentially in open source and other forms, and that's going to be massively destabilising, so whichever way you look at it there are incredible upsides and there's the potential to empower everybody to be able to conflict in ways we otherwise might not because we have so many different opinions in the world.”

Mr Suleyman's presence and opinions have been highly sought after over the last several years by media outlets and he has been a regular speaker at panel discussions around the world.

At the CogX Festival in London last year, the tech entrepreneur put AI in a historical context. There have been threats with every new technology, he said, but over time safety measures were adopted to make them safe and reliable.

Muslim Youth Helpline

Although he's now synonymous with his thoughts on ethics and AI, Mr Suleyman's earliest endeavours showed an interest in altruism.

In 2004, Mr Suleyman was listed as a board member for the Muslim Youth Helpline, which sought to advise young Muslims “in the condition of emotional need, hardship and mental distress through culturally aware and faith sensitive counselling and practical assistance”, data from the Registrar of Companies for England and Wales shows.

Although he no longer serves on the board, the youth helpline is still offering mental wellness services.

Mr Suleyman, whose father was originally from Syria and his mother a nurse for the UK's National Health Service, spoke to Wired magazine in 2016 about AI's potential impact on health care.

“We're here to make the world a better place,” he said at the time.

Updated: March 20, 2024, 9:17 AM