#6 – AI AND STARTUPS – JUSTIN BRONDER – MICROSOFT



Regardless of the business, artificial intelligence has become the holy grail for just about any startup. There’s been plenty of buzz but we’ve barely scratched the surface, according to Microsoft Applied Machine Learning Scientist Justin Bronder.

In this edition of Series A-The Podcast, Justin joins host Jim Brisimitzis for a revealing and fascinating look at the history, present and future of AI as it relates to the startup ecosystem.Justin says the AI offers huge potential implications to everything from data to cryptocurrency  “Some big breakthroughs are coming,” Justin tells Jim.

One area he points to is autonomous vehicles. Justin predicts not only a dramatic increase in the number of self-driving cars and trucks on our roads in the next few years, but the endless opportunities for car makers and supporting companies alike. “Microsoft not only works with Tesla but we work with a bunch of other startup-based companies that focus on autonomous driving systems that are independent of the actual vehicle. So, they can sell it to Ford or Chrysler or some other companies,” he tells Jim.

As for the easiest adoption opportunities for startups, Justin points to tremendous opportunity in the hardware space since Nvidia remains the dominant player. “Everybody runs on Nvidia GPU’s. The space is ripe for competition,” he says.

He also sees AI massively disrupting software development. “Right now, we have a human being who writes the lines of code. But we’re getting to the point now where a lot of the tasks that we hand curate can be done in an automated fashion by software,” Justin says. “We’re doing a lot of research into whether programs can be written based solely on intention.”

Justin also discusses the role AI and deep learning will play in navigating what he calls unstructured data, such as images, audio and video. For example, he details the potential for AI to allow home security systems to differentiate between a person moving in your back yard, an animal, or even a tree blowing in the wind.

“We’re doing work with reinforcement learning where those (AI-enhanced systems) are going to actually do more measurably useful things for us,” he tells Jim.

As for which companies will prevail on the platform side for AI, Justin says it’s still the earliest days or the “Wild West”, with many competitors.

So how should even the smallest startup prepare for an inevitable future? Justin says it’s critical for founders to make sure data science or AI is as much a consideration as traditional engineering.

“Some people have argued you need a Chief AI officer along with a CTO,” he says. But he warns small startups in the garage that AI requires petabytes of data. “If you don’t have a lot of data, it’s hard to build deep learning systems. You can design them, but you need some source for a lot of your data for training.”

As Jim often points out, data is the new oil. But not everyone will get in on the gushers. Jim’s conversation with Justin includes the sobering reality that the disruption coming could bring significant job cuts in many industries ranging from transportation to agriculture. And Justin says we could see a higher impact on white collar jobs than in past technological and industrial revolutions “It will be painful for some,” he says.

But by the same token, we can’t even begin to imagine the wealth of possible jobs that don’t even exist now once humans are freed from labor intensive tasks that can be done by systems instead. It’s an exciting and uncharted frontier for thought leaders like Justin Bronder, which makes this episode of Series A-The Podcast so fascinating, timely and relevant.


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