This guest post is authored by Mark Bivens. Mark is a Silicon Valley native and former entrepreneur, having started three companies before “turning to the dark side of VC.” He is a venture capitalist that travels between Paris and Tokyo (aka the RudeVC). You can read more on his blog at http://rude.vc or follow him @markbivens. The Japanese translation of this article is available here.
Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending the remote webcast of Zeroth.ai accelerator’s class pitch day.
Here in The Bridge you’ll find a more comprehensive recap of the event. In contrast, I’ll hone in on three AI startups which struck me as particularly relevant for the European market.
Rocco.ai – an AI-powered social media manager. Rocco’s key selling point is improving the efficiency of managing myriad social media campaigns in the saturated space of platforms. Sounds worthwhile. However, I could already imagine another killer app: tweak the Rocco bot to suffer through the countless productivity-sapping meetings which are all-too-common in many Southern European business environments.
Impress.ai – an AI-powered candidate screening tool for employers. One of Europe’s strengths is is deep base of diverse talent in the job-seeking pool. Hiring managers are inundated with résumés in countries which have punishingly high unemployment rates. Impress.ai’s tool strikes me as a remedy to optimizing these hiring processes. One open question for bots like these is how do we ensure that our human biases do not become integrated into the AI tools humans build?
Sero.ai – a clever application for deep learning to improve rice crop yields. By taking photos of their rice fields with their smartphones, farmers can obtain AI-driven analytics and disease diagnoses in real-time in order to optimize usage of pesticides, fertilizers, water, and energy on their crops. This led me to thinking: would a similar application be appropriate for vineyards? For example, could a winemaker minimize pesticide usage based on an AI-informed recommendation of insect susceptibility? Or perhaps even the harvest date could be optimized? It would seem to me that a startup from one of the major wine regions in France, Italy, or even Germany would have some legitimacy in this area.
To reiterate what I had mentioned in my predictions post, I believe 2017 will be a breakout year for the deployment of AI applications. By this I mean that AI companies will start to master the processes of expectation management and social engineering in order to bring AI across the chasm of consumer perception. This excites me as an investor.
[On a related note: my favorite venue for meeting AI entrepreneurs in Tokyo is the aptly-named Deus Ex Machina, a surf shop that doubles as a café (or vice versa). If you appreciate AI (or even just a well-balanced Gibraltar, albeit brewed by a human), Deus is worth a stop. If you bump into me there, I’m probably meeting with an AI entrepreneur, so please introduce yourself. However, please don’t “out” me as a VC since the staff of the Deus only know me as the California surfer dude.]