CEO Chris Stephenson of Topos Labs recently spoke with Jason Kraus, chapter director of Startup Grind Boston and explored the importance of decoding and democratizing artificial intelligence (AI), the future of AI, and tips for entrepreneurs. Startup Grind is the world’s largest community of startups, founders, innovators, and creators. It brings together like-minded yet diverse individuals together to connect, learn, teach, help, build, and belong.
During this virtual session, Chris talked about his career journey – from a journalism major who accidentally landed a temp job in IT to becoming a successful tech entrepreneur – and said, “it has been an exhilarating ride of constant learning, growth and opportunity”.
When asked about Topos Labs and its product ‘Gracie’, Chris explained that Gracie is a natural language processing (NLP) engine…or more simply put, a reading machine. Gracie ingests, classifies, analyzes and extracts intelligence from digital text faster and more accurately than humans. The software is named in honor of Grace Hopper, a pioneer in computer programming who is considered and ‘the mother of COBOL’. The product logo is also a tribute to Hopper. In the recording (at 39:40) hear Chris discuss the origin of the moth in the Gracie logo and the origins of the term ‘de-bug’.
When asked about the future of AI, Chris offered a few concepts:
- Exciting Break-throughs: While Artificial Generalized Intelligence (AGI) is still a hypothetical concept residing in the “science fiction” category, there are innovations that appear to be starting to scratch the surface. An example is OpenAI’s GPT-3 which, despite its shortcomings, does some pretty amazing natural language generation without any human-based training. GPT-3 is an exciting example of things to come.
- AI Renaissance: With the cost of storage going down and the speed of processing going up, AI (and machine learning in particular) are getting a lot of attention, and this trend will continue unabated into the foreseeable future. Chris believes we’re in the early stages of what will be an explosion in mind-blowing, AI-powered innovations in the coming 5-10 years.
- Push Back: However, be cautious about the ethics and biases. With AI becoming more mainstream, many regulatory and ethical challenges will need to be addressed. So while AI will soon become ubiquitous, businesses and institutions will need to be thoughtful, deliberate and cautious when employing it. Not every scenario should use AI. As with the use of any technology, it must align with a strategic goal.
With his experience of launching multiple startups, Chris’ advice to entrepreneurs include:
- Trust your instincts, even if others don’t see your vision. Don’t let anyone stop you from working on an idea you believe in.
- Will it sell? Building technology is easy.Getting people to buy it from you and making a sustainable business are the hard parts.
- Don’t get stuck chasing money or building a technology. Ultimately, you need to be engaging the customers, and hearing from them so when you go to sell that technology, they say “yes this is something that I’m willing to buy.”
To hear the complete conversation between Chis and Jason, check out the recording here.