LA Founders & Investors Fireside Chat Recap: Navigating AI Entrepreneurship with Emad Hasan & Connor Sundberg

Feb 29, 2024

Last week, AI LA, in collaboration with Emerging LA and Sunset Ventures, hosted a community fireside chat featuring insights from Emad Hasan (cofounder & CEO of Retina.AI and advisor at Novex.AI) and Connor Sundberg (Principal at Amplify.LA) on AI and entrepreneurship.

The conversation kicked off with a trip down memory lane to 2016-2017, a period Connor referred to as “Wave 1” of modern AI. This era was marked by the commercialization of machine learning, where startups were dependent on access to vast datasets to train their algorithms. Fast forward to today, and the landscape has dramatically shifted with the advent of Generative AI, which leverages the vast corpus of existing internet data, thus reducing the dependency on large proprietary datasets.

One of the biggest recent shifts discussed by Emad is the role of AI in data science. Where previously a team of data scientists and trove of historical data was needed to build a model for something as specific as recommending the next best action to a customer, prompt engineering now allows for similar tasks to be accomplished with far fewer resources. This has not only democratized AI & data analysis but has also broadened its customer base beyond the technically adept to include less technical users.

The speakers touched upon the importance of data, distribution, and demand in the current AI ecosystem. They highlighted the ongoing value of proprietary data and the new defensive stance companies are taking towards their data moats. Emad mentioned that one of the lessons he learned as an operator is that foundational models tend to become commoditized over time, leading their long-term value toward zero, and value will ultimately be concentrated in data & distribution.  While distribution advantages that lower customer acquisition costs have traditionally gone to incumbents, new generative AI tools are able to penetrate industry segments & channels previously untouched by software, and additionally the cost of starting a company has gone down dramatically in recent years.

Connor highlighted demand in service-heavy workflows with high administrative burden, like healthcare and law, business areas where AI-powered efficiency has high potential value. Ethics, transparency, and regulation in AI were also hot topics, with Emad emphasizing the need to address bias, privacy, and regulation before even training a model. The future of AI legislation was also discussed, with a focus on the importance of data lineage and the challenges of ensuring AI-generated content is appropriately labeled.

The fireside chat was a trove of insights for folks passionate about AI and entrepreneurship. The AI landscape is evolving rapidly, and with it, the opportunities for innovation and disruption are boundless.

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Shree Radhakrishnan