Countdown to our rapture with AI – TechCrunch
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Happy Saturday everyone. Hope you are well, rested and relaxed.
Today we are going to have fun. Of course, at the bottom we have our usual mix of rounds and venture capital ratings and so on. But first, let’s talk about AI.
This week, I got to chat with two different companies who are working to make artificial intelligence a little more concrete. One was for hardware, the other for software.
On the material side, I spoke with Peter Chapman of IonQ. IonQ is a quantum computing company that recently became public via a SPAC. However, instead of digging into buyouts and other blank check minutiae, Chapman and I mainly discussed science fiction and what strong AI really means.
Simply put, strong AI is not the way Alexa works today. Alexa, according to Chapman, works by asking engineers to code many possible responses to queries. It evolves for a while. Corn strong AI needs to be able to write its own code, Chapman explained, which makes it fundamentally different from human-generated question-and-answer setups.
This fits the quantum topic because quantum computing, Chapman said, is very good for the kind of code generation that a strong AI will require. And, most importantly, it’s also good enough to analyze a myriad of probabilities at the same time and choose between them.
All this to say that quantum computing is reaching its early commercial stages and that companies like IonQ – named for its use of trapped ions in its technology – are helping usher in this new era of computing. As quantum computing becomes more and more mainstream, we should be able to get closer to the kind of AI that is not limited to ML models at a macro scale.
On the software side, I had a phone with Rachel Carpenter, CEO of Intrinio. Her business has built a huge set of financial data which it makes available through an API. As a financial nerd, that’s cool. The amount of time you spend reading the documents filed with the SEC will determine whether or not you care about this part of Intrinio.
But the startup is also building something called Théa, an AI service that works by weaving neural networks into a personalized natural language processing machine capable of understanding text. For people looking to analyze huge amounts of financial reports, this is a great product idea.
What struck me when talking to Carpenter was that Thea was first trained on the larger Internet. It’s not just a financial language analysis tool. He can do more.
Today, the company keeps Thea’s focus on its financial niche, according to the CEO. But if Intrinio can launch something this complex using partially open source services, we could see many more smart systems like Thea hit the market in the years to come. Merge that with increasingly commercial quantum computing technology and it seems, maybe, that we may one day be on our way, perhaps, to getting closer to real artificial intelligence.
Yes, we were both born 50 years too early.
Venture capital this, venture capital which
As expected, the venture capital landscape in the third quarter was completely bonkers. Crazy dish. Historically rich. Choose your phrasing.
So far, Q4 is exactly and exactly the same. A sample :
- Notion raised a $ 275 million round for a valuation of $ 10 billion, according to Alex Konrad at Forbes. (Alexis has done a great job lately, I must note.) This is indeed free capital. How? ‘Or’ What? Notion has just sold 2.75% of itself for north of a quarter of a billion dollars. In terms of capital efficiency in terms of dilution, it’s… cheap. Especially for a startup that is still too concerned about its income scale to really share the numbers. Notion still had a bunch of his last round in the bank before this round. Thus, he raised a quarter of a billion dollars on specifications, from investors who had so much capital to bet that the company manages an exit of at least 30 billion dollars in time. Let’s see.
- And this week Modern treasure raised an $ 85 million Series C which values the fintech company “payment transactions” at more than $ 2 billion. The company upped its Series B earlier this year when it was valued at around $ 300 million by PitchBook data. It’s a lot of value creation in a very, very short time period ! But it seems pretty fitting for what we’ve seen in recent months.
All that to say that it doesn’t look like the fourth quarter is slowing down compared to the second and third quarters of this year. If 2022 doesn’t surpass the 2021 venture capital totals, I wonder how long it will take before I revisit this type of investment.
What a time to live.
In other news, I’ve written some other take-out tips this week – here and here – if you want something with more bite.