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Good Saturday, everyone. I hope you are fine, resting and resting.
Today we are going to have some fun. Of course, below we have our usual mix of venture capital rounds and notes and so on. But first let’s talk about AI.
This week I got to talk to two different companies working on making machine intelligence a little more concrete. One deals with hardware, the other software.
On the hardware side of things, I chatted IonQ’s Peter Chapman. IonQ is a quantum computing company that recently Made public via SPAC. However, instead of digging into Redemption and other blank-check minutiae, Chapman and I mostly discussed science fiction and what AI really means.
In simple words, strong AI is not the way Alexa works today. Alexa, per Chapman, works by making engineers code up lots of possible responses to questions. It scales for a while. but strong AI needs to be able to write its own code, Chapman explained, which makes it fundamentally different from a human-generated question-and-answer setup.
It fits into the quantum theme because quantum computing, Chapman said, is very good at the type of code generation that would require strong AI. And, critically, it’s also very fine parsing myriad possibilities at the same time and choosing between them.
All of this is to say that quantum computing is reaching its early commercial stages, and companies like IonQ – named for the use of trapped ions in their technology – are helping usher in this new computer age. As quantum computing becomes more mainstream, we should be able to get closer to the kind of AI that isn’t just ML models at the macro scale.
From the software side of things, I got on the phone Intrinio CEO Rachel Carpenter. His company Has created a huge financial dataset which it makes available through an API. As a financial nerd, that’s cool. The amount of time you spend reading SEC filings will determine whether you care about that part of the intern.
But the startup is also building something called thea, an AI service that works by weaving neural networks into a custom natural language processing machine that can understand text. For people who analyze a large amount of financial reporting, this is a great product idea.
What struck me when talking to Carpenter was that Thea was initially trained on the big internet. It is not just a financial language analysis tool. It can do more.
According to the CEO, today the company is turning Thea’s focus on its financials. But if Intrinio can partially build something complex using open source services, we could see many more intelligent systems like Theia coming to market in the coming years. That fuses to increasingly commercial quantum computing technology and it seems, just maybe, that we are finally on the road to, one day, perhaps getting closer to true artificial intelligence.
Yes, we were both born 50 years ago.
venture capital this, venture capital that
As expected, the Q3 venture capital landscape was completely bonkers. flat crazy. historically rich. Choose your phrase.
So far Q4 is looking fine and exactly the same. A sample:
- an assumption has raised a $275 million round at a valuation of $10 billion, According to Alex Konrad in Forbes. (alex Has been doing great lately, I should note.) It’s effectively free capital. how so? Assumption just sold 2.75% of itself for north of a quarter billion dollars. In terms of capital efficiency in terms of dilution, that is…cheap. Especially for a startup still concerned about its revenue scale to really share the numbers. Before this round the bank still had a bunch of final rounds of perception. So, it raised a quarter of the bill from investors who had at least that much capital to bet on a $30 billion premature exit company. let’s watch.
- and this week modern treasure raised $85 million Series C This “payments operation” values the fintech company at over $2 billion. The company upped its Series B earlier this year, when it was valued at around $300 million. data per pitchbook. It’s a lot of value creation, very In a short time! But for what we’ve seen in recent months, it seems quite fitting.
All of this is to say that it doesn’t look like Q4 is slower than this year’s quarters two and three. If 2022 doesn’t outperform 2021 venture capital totals, I wonder how long it will take until we see this kind of investment again.
What is the time to live
In other news I wrote some more tech-y stuff this week — here and here — if you want something with a little more bite.