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10 investors talk about the future of AI and what lies beyond the ChatGPT hype



When I mentioned “the rise of AI” in a recent email to investors, one of them sent me an interesting reply: “The ‘rise of AI’ is a bit of a misnomer.”

What that investor, Rudina Seseri, a managing partner at Glasswing Ventures, means to say is that sophisticated technologies like AI and deep learning have been around for a long time now, and all this hype around AI is ignoring the simple fact that they have been in development for decades. “We saw the earliest enterprise adoption in 2010,” she pointed out.

Still, we can’t deny that AI is enjoying unprecedented levels of attention, and companies across sectors around the world are busy pondering the impact it could have on their industry and beyond.

Dr. Andre Retterath, a partner at Earlybird Venture Capital, feels several factors are working in tandem to generate this momentum. “We are witnessing the perfect AI storm, where three major ingredients that evolved throughout the past 70 years have finally come together: Advanced algorithms, large-scale datasets, and access to powerful compute,” he said.

Still, we couldn’t help but be skeptical at the number of teams that pitched a version of “ChatGPT for X” at Y Combinator’s winter Demo Day earlier this year. How likely is it that they will still be around in a few years?

Karin Klein, a founding partner at Bloomberg Beta, thinks it’s better to run the race and risk failing than sit it out, since this is not a trend companies can afford to ignore. “While we’ve seen a bunch of “copilots for [insert industry]” that may not be here in a few years, the bigger risk is to ignore the opportunity. If your company isn’t experimenting with using AI, now is the time or your business will fall behind.”

And what’s true for the average company is even more true for startups: Failing to give at least some thought to AI would be a mistake. But a startup also needs to be ahead of the game more than the average company does, and in some areas of AI, “now” may already be “too late.”

To better understand where startups still stand a chance, and where oligopoly dynamics and first-mover advantages are shaping up, we polled a select group of investors about the future of AI, which areas they see the most potential in, how multilingual LLMs and audio generation could develop, and the value of proprietary data.

This is the first of a three-part survey that aims to dive deep into AI and how the industry is shaping up. In the next two parts to be published soon, you will hear from other investors on the various parts of the AI puzzle, where startups have the highest chance of winning, and where open-source might overtake closed source.

We spoke with:

Manish Singhal, founding partner, pi Ventures

Will today’s leading genAI models and the companies behind them retain their leadership in the coming years?

This is a dynamically changing landscape when it comes to applications of LLMs. Many companies will form in the application domain, and only a few will succeed in scaling. In terms of foundation models, we do expect OpenAI to get competition from other players in the future. However, they have a strong head start and it will not be easy to dislodge them.

Which AI-related companies do you feel aren’t innovative enough to still be around in 5 years?

I think in the applied AI space, there should be significant consolidation. AI is becoming more and more horizontal, so it will be challenging for applied AI companies, which are built on off-the-shelf models, to retain their moats.

However, there is quite a bit of fundamental innovation happening on the applied front as well as on the infrastructure side (tools and platforms). They are likely to do better than the others.

Is open source the most obvious go-to-market route for AI startups?

It depends on what you are solving for. For the infrastructure layer companies, it is a valid path, but it may not be that effective across the board. One has to consider whether open source is a good route or not based on the problem they are solving.

Do you wish there were more LLMs trained in other languages than English? Besides linguistic differentiation, what other types of differentiation do you expect to see?

We are seeing LLMs in other languages as well, but of course, English is the most widely used. Based on the local use cases, LLMs in different languages definitely make sense.

Besides linguistic differentiation, we expect to see LLM variants that are specialized in certain domains (e.g., medicine, law and finance) to provide more accurate and relevant information within those areas. There is already some work happening in this area, such as BioGPT and Bloomberg GPT.

LLMs suffer from hallucination and relevance when you want to use them in real production grade applications. I think there will be considerable work done on that front to make them more usable out of the box.

What are the chances of the current LLM method of building neural networks being disrupted in the upcoming quarters or months?

It can surely happen, although it may take longer than a few months. Once quantum computing goes mainstream, the AI landscape will change significantly again.

Given the hype around ChatGPT, are other media types like generative audio and image generation comparatively underrated?

Multi-modal generative AI is picking pace. For most of the serious applications, one will need those to build, especially for images and text. Audio is a special case: there is significant work happening in auto-generation of music and speech cloning, which has wide commercial potential.

Besides these, auto-generation of code is becoming more and more popular, and generating videos is an interesting dimension — we will soon see movies completely generated by AI!

Are startups with proprietary data more valuable in your eyes these days than they were before the rise of AI?

Contrary to what the world may think, proprietary data gives a good head start, but eventually, it is very difficult to keep your data proprietary.

Hence, the tech moat comes from a combination of intelligently designed algorithms that are productized and fine tuned for an application along with the data.

When could AGI become a reality, if ever?

We are getting close to human levels with certain applications, but we are still far from a true AGI. I also believe that it is an asymptotic curve after a while, so it may take a very long time to get there across the board.

For true AGI, several technologies, like neurosciences and behavioral science, may also have to converge.

Is it important to you that the companies you invest in get involved in lobbying and/or discussion groups around the future of AI?

Not really. Our companies are more targeted towards solving specific problems, and for most applications, lobbying does not help. It’s useful to participate in discussion groups, as one can keep a tab on how things are developing.

Rudina Seseri, founder and managing partner, Glasswing Ventures

Will today’s leading genAI models and the companies behind them retain their leadership in the coming years?

The foundation layer model providers such as Alphabet, Microsoft/Open AI and Meta will likely maintain their market leadership and function as an oligopoly over the long term. However, there are opportunities for competition in models that provide significant differentiation, like Cohere and other well-funded players at the foundational level, placing a strong emphasis on trust and privacy.

We have not invested and likely will not invest in the foundation layer of generative AI. This layer will probably end in one of two states: In one scenario, the foundation layer will have oligopoly dynamics akin to what we saw with the cloud market, where a select few players will capture most of the value.

The other possibility is that foundation models are largely supplied by the open source ecosystem. We see the application layer holding the biggest opportunity for founders and venture investors. Companies that deliver tangible, measurable value to their customers can displace large incumbents in existing categories and dominate new ones.

Our investment strategy is explicitly focused on companies offering value-added technology that augments foundation models.

Just as value creation in the cloud did not end with the cloud computing infrastructure providers, significant value creation has yet to arrive across the genAI stack. The genAI race is far from over.

Which AI-related companies do you feel aren’t innovative enough to still be around in 5 years?

A few market segments in AI might not be sustainable as long-term businesses. One such example is the “GPT wrapper” category — solutions or products built around OpenAI’s GPT technology. These solutions lack differentiation and can be easily disrupted by features launched by existing dominant players in their market. As such, they will struggle to maintain a competitive edge in the long run.

Similarly, companies that do not provide significant business value or do not solve a problem in a high-value, expensive space will not be sustainable businesses. Consider this: A solution streamlining a straightforward task for an intern will not scale into a significant business, unlike a platform that resolves complex challenges for a chief architect, offering distinct and high-value benefits.

Finally, companies with products that do not seamlessly integrate within current enterprise workflows and architectures, or require extensive upfront investments, will face challenges in implementation and adoption. This will be a significant obstacle for successfully generating meaningful ROI, as the bar is far higher when behavior changes and costly architecture changes are required.

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India’s Private Rocket ‘Agnibaan’ Set For Launch By Agnikul Cosmos On May 28




Another private Indian rocket is launching on May 28. Agnikul Cosmos will attempt to launch the ‘Agnibaan’ for the second time tomorrow at an expected time of between 5:30 to 7:30 am IST, India Today reported.

The Chennai-based space startup has also issued a Notice to Airmen (Notam) information to aware the authorities about the potential launch to avoid hazards.

According to Agnikul, the Notam will be active till June 5 for the launch which will take place from the company’s spaceport ALP-01 at Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota. This spaceport, which is India’s first private one, was inaugurated by ISRO Chairman S Somanath on November 25, 2023.

This would mark the second mission with a commercial launch vehicle. India’s first private rocket Vikram-S flew on November 18, 2022 during Skyroot Aerospace’s Prarambh mission.

ALSO SEE: India Gets Its First Private Launch Pad, And It Will Give Space Sector A Major Boost; Here’s How

What is Agnikul’s mission about?

Agnikul’s mission named SubOrbital Technological Demonstrator or SOrTeD is meant to test the single-stage Agnibaan rocket.

According to Agnikul’s website, the rocket to be used for SOrTeD will be powered by the Agnilet semi-cryogenic engine that uses kerosene and liquid oxygen. This single piece engine is entirely 3D printed and would be the first such power source used in a private rocket launch.

“Unlike traditional sounding rockets that launch from guide rails, Agnibaan SOrTeD will lift off vertically and follow a predetermined trajectory while performing a precisely orchestrated set of manoeuvres during flight,” Agnikul said in its mission profile.

ALSO SEE: Indian Tech Startup To Create World’s First 3D-Printed Rocket Engine; All You Need To Know

Agnikul is developing Agnibaan as a two-stage rocket which can be customised according to the customer’s needs. This two-stage rocket which measures 18 meters tall has a maximum payload capacity of 100 kg to a 700 km orbit and can be customised to add a ‘baby’ stage.

The mission was initially planned for launch on April 7 but was called off about two minutes before the lift off due to a communication issue between onboard hardware.

(Image: Agnikul Cosmos)

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Five Asteroids In 3 Days! A Barrage Of Space Rocks Are Heading Toward Earth This Week




Five asteroids of varying sizes are set for a close encounter with Earth in the next two days. NASA’s Center For Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) has revealed that the smallest of them measures between roughly 4.5 to 10 meters in diameter whereas the biggest of them is about 32 to 73 meters.

The data has revealed that the smallest – 2008 LD – will be approximately 29.5 lakh km from Earth at the time of the fly by. It is travelling at a speed more than 16,000 km per hour.

Orbit of asteroid 2024 JV17. Image: NASA

The biggest of the five – the 2024 JV17 – will be approximately 66 lakh km away at the time of the closest approach while travelling at over 30,000 km per hour. Both these space rocks will fly past Earth on May 28.

ALSO SEE: Like Dinosaurs, Humans Will Become Extinct If A Single Asteroid Collides; ‘Asteroid Rush’ Trailer Proves Just That

The other asteroids – the 2021 LV (between 7-15 meters wide) and 2024 JG (between 22-50 meters) will get close to our planet on May 29.

Orbit of asteroid JO16. Image: NASA

There will be a close encounter today as well when the asteroid 2024 JO16 flies past Earth. According to the CNEOS data, it will be about 30 lakh km from our planet and will be travelling at more than 30,000 km per hour.

As the data suggests, there is no need to worry since the asteroids will fly from a safe distance from our planet. Besides, their size except for a few relatively big ones is also not a cause for concern.

ALSO SEE: Lack Of Earth’s Resources Can Be Fulfilled By Asteroids – And A US Firm Wants To Mine Them

(Image: Unsplash)

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Paytm warns of job cuts as losses swell after RBI clampdown




Indian digital payments platform Paytm warned of job cuts on Wednesday after reporting that its net loss widened in the fourth quarter as it grapples with a recent regulatory clampdown.

One97 Communications, Paytm’s parent, said it expects to cut employee expenses and pare down its annual staff costs by $48 million to $60 million.

The company, once the most valuable Indian startup, reported a net loss of $66.1 million in the fourth quarter ended March 2024, compared to a loss of $20.11 million a year earlier. Revenue declined about 3% to $272.4 million from $280.4 million in the same period.

India’s central bank in February banned the company’s banking partner and sister company, Paytm Payments Bank, from conducting banking activity from March. That brought a sudden halt to Paytm’s slew of banking services, and the company was forced to ink new partnerships with other banks to keep many of those services running.

Paytm said it also took an impairment charge of $27.2 million related to its investment in Paytm Payments Bank in the quarter. In the quarter ending June this year, Paytm projected its revenue to be in the range of $180 million to $192 million.

In the full year ended March, Paytm’s revenue increased 25% to $1.19 billion from a year earlier, though higher payment processing charges, marketing costs, employee benefits charges and software cloud expenses weighed on its bottom line. As a result, net loss widened to $170 million from a loss of $213 million a year earlier.

Paytm’s results include “enough data points to suggest that the business is past the bottom in terms of payment volumes and user/merchant traction,” Bernstein analysts said in a note to clients. “Though from a financial metrics perspective, 1QFY25 is likely to be the bottom, as it would reflect the full impact of the lower steady state (vs. 2 months impact in 4QFY24).”

The analysts, however, cautioned that Paytm’s payment GMV has dropped by about 20% and the company’s expectations for its payment processing margin has also declined, which together “translates to a near 50% blow to the payment margins.” They estimated, however, that Paytm’s merchant lending volumes picked up in March and April — a clear sign of revival.

Paytm had about $1.03 billion in the bank as of March 31. The company’s shares were down about 1% on Wednesday afternoon to ₹349.20, giving it a market cap of $2.64 billion. Paytm went public in 2021 at a valuation of $20 billion.

“I am happy to share that we have successfully transitioned our core payment business from PPBL to other partner banks. This move de-risks our business model and also opens up new opportunities for long-term monetization, given our platform’s strength around customer and merchant engagement,” said Paytm’s founder and CEO, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, in the company’s annual shareholder letter.

“It has been possible in such a short period of time with extensive support from the Regulator, NPCI, Bank partners and our committed team mates. The unwavering commitment of our government and regulator to support innovation and financial inclusion, keeps us true to our mission and committed to our long-term sustainable growth opportunity,” he added.

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