The search for AI’s next breakthrough

TORONTO: For a few days, AI chip juggernaut Nvidia sat on the throne as the world’s biggest company, but behind the its staggering success are questions on whether new entrants can stake a claim to the artificial intelligence bonanza.

Nvidia, which makes the processors that are the only option to train generative AI’s large language models, is now Big Tech’s newest member and its stock market takeoff has lifted the whole sector.

Even tech’s second rung on Wall Street has ridden on Nvidia’s coattails with Oracle, Broadcom, HP and a spate of others seeing their stock valuations surge, despite sometimes shaky earnings.

Amid the champagne popping, startups seeking the attention of Silicon Valley venture capitalists are being asked to innovate — but without a clear indication of where the next chapter of AI will be written.

When it comes to generative AI, doubts persist on what exactly will be left for companies that are not existing model makers, a field dominated by Microsoft-backed OpenAI, Google and Anthropic.

Most agree that competing with them head-on could be a fool’s errand.

“I don’t think that there’s a great opportunity to start a foundational AI company at this point in time,” said Mike Myer, founder and CEO of tech firm Quiq, at the Collision technology conference in Toronto.

Some have tried to build applications that use or mimic the powers of the existing big models, but this is being slapped down by Silicon Valley’s biggest players.

“What I find disturbing is that people are not differentiating between those applications which are roadkill for the models as they progress in their capabilities, and those that are really adding value and will be here 10 years from now,” said venture capital veteran Vinod Khosla.

‘Won’t keep up’

The tough-talking Khosla is one of OpenAI’s earliest investors.

“Grammarly won’t keep up,” Khosla predicted of the spelling and grammar checking app, and others similar to it.

He said these companies, which put only a “thin wrapper” around what the AI models can offer, are doomed.

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