A challenge facing many startups is that they do not have enough data, limiting their ability to create great products. However, large enterprise partners can help startups fill the data gap and support their ability to innovate . At the AI Amalgamators event hosted by Microsoft for Startups
last week, a group of leading Silicon Valley investors came together to connect and exchange ideas on how to build the future of business with data and AI.
Event host, Managing Director of Microsoft for Startups Silicon Valley, Shaloo Garg actively enables startup success through her work at Microsoft for Startups.
AI Amalgamators founder “Aku” Aakriti Srikanth, a Forbes 30 Under 30 Honoree for 2019, invited a wide range of industry leaders to connect with Microsoft over a panel discussion.
In her view, “working with corporations can be a huge benefit for startups who are looking to incorporate artificial intelligence and want to make data-driven decisions. Access to data is limited for startups – and it’s not only about the access to data, but it’s also about the quality and the quantity. Large corporations, such as Microsoft, are able to offer startups better access to higher-quality data than if they were trying to gather it on their own.” In addition to Shaloo Garg and “Aku” Aakriti Srikanth, panelists for this panel which I moderated were InSik Rhee (GP of Vertex Ventures), Jean English ( CMO of Palo Alto Networks), Ken Elefant (GP of Sorenson Ventures), and Punit Chiniwalla (Managing Director of Singtel Innov8 Ventures). Here is a look at some of the upcoming trends in artificial intelligence that were discussed, including why data is so critical, how data can be used for Social Good, and why choosing the right data partners and navigating relationships is so important.
AI For Social Good
AI for Good has been rapidly gaining traction in the tech sector. One positive advancement is the use of AI to track down and reduce human sex trafficking in Southeast Asia, as well as creating equal opportunities for education in developing nations, “The biggest problem kids face in developed economies is that their iPhones are not charged. In places like Uganda, Somalia, and Syrian refugee camps, the problem is that boys can go to school and girls cannot.” said Garg. Garg also shared how Microsoft’s corporate philosophy is centered on AI for Good. “The time is right, the market is right, there’s capital freeing up in the market. And there are a lot of great startups who understand the landscape and want to make a change – let’s make that happen!” Shaloo shared “As the power of artificial intelligence has grown, questions about whether it is a force for good or a force for evil, have been a popular topic of discussion”. Aakriti shared how many startups are now pivoting to using AI to positively impact, drive and transform our world.
Lessons for Data Startups Working with Corporate Enterprises
Data is an important aspect of success for any tech organization to achieve success. But the majority of startups don’t have enough resources to gather, process, and execute data on their own. Jean English shared how it is critical to have data as the number one priority in the company. Both business and IT departments have to come together to prioritize how they focus on data seamlessly across the organization before they can even begin to think about how they are going to use it. Punit Chiniwalla shared how startups should “choose which game they’re playing,” through either ownership, processing, or productizing the data and adding value to it. He cautioned how startups often fail because they do not have ownership of the data and do not have a scalable product that meets the market need. Garg’s view was for startups to lean into their strengths and not be intimidated by big corporations. Startups are often more agile, faster, and cheaper, and have an easier time pivoting. Stick to what you are building and do not let outsiders maneuver you unless you feel it is beneficial.
Upcoming trends in AI
Srikanth shared how startups like Ahura AI are leveraging AI to improve education by helping tutor young children, another startup called Atrium is using AI to disrupt the legal industry and provide cost-effective legal support to startups. The idea for Atrium arose from the interactions Twitch founder, Justin Kan had while building his startup and his experiences working very closely with lawyers. English shared that a major focus in business is asking “ What does it mean to use AI to think about designing experiences. What is the next best action a customer might want to take? ” While AI is good for many tasks, according to English, it still takes human creativity to develop these experiences. Punit shared that in the United States, we take connectivity for granted as well as the fact that data is so accessible. The first step in many developing areas around the world is to create the pipes and communication frameworks that can enable connections to occur. For example, doctors need to be able to talk to patients remotely, so it’s important to be able to store information in a central repository for other practitioners to refer back to. Ken Elefant offered a different perspective,
“Before, the bottleneck was that you had to have a machine learning engineer cobble together the tools, systems management, and DevOps. Now, the bottleneck is on the compliance side, and this ethical aspect is now a market opportunity because it’s the bottleneck for launching new paradigms . For example, we love physical security, but what if your computer vision model only goes after short guys (like me) with bushy eyebrows? That’s not very fair! So you need to make sure these models are only using the data that they should be using and that the data is clean.”
Insik Rhee shared how AI is good at teasing out outliers, and classifying based on some form of differences. “it’s going to create weights and biases around specific features, so it requires a human in the loop to know what’s good and what’s bad, ” said Rhee. It’s great to see companies take such an interest in the field of social impact, support of the startup ecosystem, as well as see more startups leveraging AI in a positive way. Big thanks to Microsoft for Startups for inviting me to moderate this amazing panel and participate in an exciting conversation on the future of AI.