Earlier this year, OpenAI’s co-founders described how their AI venture broke several Silicon Valley rules on its way to a nearly $30 billion valuation.
“You’re supposed to have a problem to solve, not a technology looking for the solution,” CTO Greg Brockman told the Possible Podcast in May. In the early days of OpenAI, he said, the leaders spent months “writing down all the different ideas we could work on for both GPT-3 and GPT-4… Maybe we can do something medical or legal.”
Instead, they decided to ignore the rule altogether – with great success. As it turns out, “every company, every individual, every company is a language company,” Brockman explains. “So if you can add a little bit of value to existing language workflows, then it can just be adopted so widely.”
This week, renowned venture capitalist Paul Graham gave his take on artificial intelligence, while appealing to the same language used by Brockman.
“AI is the exact opposite of a solution looking for a problem,” he says wrote on X. “It’s the solution to many more problems than the developers knew existed.”
In 2005, Graham co-founded Y Combinator, the hugely successful startup accelerator that helped launch Airbnb, Stripe, and other startups.
He continued, “A pattern I’ve noticed in the current YC batch: a large number of domain experts in all sorts of different fields have found ways to use AI to solve problems that people in their field have long known about, but not completely solve it. AI is proving to be the missing piece in many important, near-completed puzzles.”
He didn’t share any examples, but when a user replied that “the supply chain and procurement industry desperately need this,” Graham replied, “I met two startups today that are using AI for this.”
Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, who replaced Graham as president of Y Combinator in 2014, also spoke out about his venture’s unorthodox approach as a startup.
“OpenAI went against all YC advice,” he said during an onstage interview at an event hosted by fintech company Stripe in May. In addition to taking four and a half years to launch a product and being the most capital-intensive startup in Silicon Valley history, he said, “We were building a technology with no idea who our customers were going to be or what they were. going to use it for.”
Today, thanks in large part to the AI gold rush that OpenAI started with the launch of ChatGPT late last year, keeping track of all AI startup activity is so difficult that one could reasonably turn to an AI chatbot for help. But Graham suggests it’s not all hype.
“It’s not intrinsically a fad or a sign of opportunism that suddenly there are a large number of startups all doing AI,” he says. wrote. “There were simply so many nearly solvable problems that have now become solvable.”
This story was originally on Fortune.com
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