For tech startups, having an artificial intelligence strategy is the new mobile — table stakes.
And the rapidly accelerating advent of machine learning, a subfield of AI which aims to enable computers to learn on their own, has Greycroft LLC partner and co-founder Ian Sigalow deliberating over how to best invest to reap the rewards.
Sigalow told entrepreneurs, investors and other members of the startup community gathered Jan. 11 for the San Diego Venture Group’s Venture Outlook event the quickening rate at which computing power is advancing has made determining how to profit from that evolution a challenge.
“We’re entering some really freaky stuff, and I don’t know what to make of it, but in every industry — whether it’s waste management, or convenience stores, or driverless cars or security — there is stuff happening,” he said, after relating a story about one of the latest coups in the AI world, in which a poker bot called Libratus beat out top professional poker players — a feat until recently considered near-impossible because a player can’t see an opponent’s cards.
“I don’t know how to make money in this, because it’s happening at such a fast clip. But there is going to be insatiable demand for the talent that can solve these problems.”
That, however, doesn’t mean Sigalow, who traveled from New York to speak at the annual SDVG event at Qualcomm’s Irwin M. Jacobs Lecture Hall, is hesitant in deploying capital to startups using such technology.
“Almost every company we, as a firm, invest in has some machine learning component,” he said in an interview after the event. “AI used to be a vertical, like health care or retail. Then, I realized, it’s a horizontal. It’s a virus, and it’s infecting everything; every fintech, health care, enterprise software (company) … they all have an AI strategy.”
Sigalow conversed on stage with David Coats, founder and managing director of San Diego-based VC firm Correlation Ventures.
Correlation, with offices in San Diego, Palo Alto and New York City, uses analytics to determine whether to invest, and promises entrepreneurs a decision within two weeks. The firm acts as a co-investor, making two to three investments monthly in partnership with other VC firms and startups looking to complete a financing round.
Coats’ firm has built a proprietary database of venture capital data. He shared some of that information at the event, and used it disprove some “common truths” in the industry he considers myths.