DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis at a 2017 event in China.
LONDON — DeepMind, one of the world’s premier artificial intelligence labs, has turned a profit for the first time ever, according to a filing with the U.K. company registry published Tuesday.
The London-based research firm recorded a profit of £43.8 million ($59.6 million) in 2020 after posting losses of hundreds of millions for the last several years. It reported a loss of $649 million in 2019, for example.
Turnover at DeepMind more than tripled from just £265.5 million in 2019 to £826.2 million in 2020, according to the annual results filing on Companies House. DeepMind, which is owned by Google parent Alphabet, did not provide a specific reason for the revenue jump.
DeepMind doesn’t sell products directly to consumers and it hasn’t announced any deals with private companies outside of the Alphabet umbrella. It does, however, sell software and services to Alphabet’s companies including Google, YouTube and X, which is the moonshot division.
A DeepMind spokesperson told CNBC the company is “powering products and infrastructure that enrich the lives of billions through the many collaborations we have worked on across Alphabet over the years.”
A person in the AI industry, with knowledge of DeepMind, told CNBC that the revenue jump could be down to “creative accounting.” DeepMind declined to comment on the claim.
“I don’t think DeepMind have many or any revenue streams,” the CNBC source said, asking to remain anonymous due to the nature of the discussion. “So all that income is based on how much Alphabet pays for internal services, and that can be entirely arbitrary.”
Elsewhere, staff costs and other related costs rose modestly from £467 million to £473 million, suggesting that DeepMind’s hiring frenzy may have come to an end.
DeepMind employs some of the world’s leading AI research scientists, who can command annual salaries of more than $1 million.
These top people, who often have PhDs from the likes of Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford or MIT, can get large packages because they’re also sought after by Big Tech companies like Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.
DeepMind did not specify how many people it added to its team in 2020 but it said it now employs over 1,000 people. Last year it said it had around 1,000 people.