Artificial intelligence and startups: The AI gold rush
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the hot technology for Silicon Valley startups (I’ve personally talked to 15 AI startups in the past year). In fact, AngelList currently lists more than 2,000 AI startups with an average valuation of $5 million. In his TED Talk, digital visionary Kevin Kelly described AI as the next revolution, and his simple formula for startups is to “solve a problem using AI.” And, IDC projected the AI market will reach more than $47 billion by 2020, with 62% of enterprises adopting the technology by next year.
What exactly is AI? According to HCL Global Vice President Arun Saksena, AI is actually an umbrella term that covers several technologies, including the following:
- Machine learning: A type of artificial intelligence that provides computers with the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed.
- Natural language processing (NLP): A field of computer science, artificial intelligence and computational linguistics concerned with the interactions between computers and human (natural) languages.
- Speech recognition: The ability of a machine or program to identify words and phrases in spoken languages and convert them to a machine-readable format.
- An expert system: A computer system that emulates the decision-making ability of a human expert. They are designed to solve complex problems through reason, represented mainly as “if-then” rules rather than through a conventional procedural code.
- Robotics: The interdisciplinary branch of engineering and science that includes mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science.
- Computer vision: Includes methods for acquiring, processing, analyzing and understanding digital images and the extraction of high-dimensional data from the real world to produce numerical or symbolic information in the forms of decisions.
Interestingly enough, AI adoption isn’t limited to startups. H&R Block, while not a highly technical company, recently implemented AI into its platform using IBM Watson. Its platform learned 74,000 pages of the US Tax Code and augments its human tax preparers.
If you are thinking about joining the AI gold rush, it may be simpler than you think. The adoption of AI has been made substantially easier as major technology companies have developed AI platforms that can be leveraged by developers through their published APIs. I predict an explosion of AI applications, just as we have seen the emergence of countless SaaS solutions with the availability of cloud computing services.