Nov 10 • 1HR 19M

Nathan Benaich: The State of AI Report

On trends in AI, international startup ecosystems, and contributing to the community.

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Interviews with various people who research, build, or use AI, including academics, engineers, artists, entrepreneurs, and more.
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In episode 48 of The Gradient Podcast, Daniel Bashir speaks to Nathan Benaich.

Nathan is Founder and General Partner at Air Street Capital, a venture capital (VC) firm focused on investing in AI-first technology and life sciences companies. Nathan runs a number of communities focused on AI including the Research and Applied AI Summit and leads Spinout.fyi to improve the creation of university spinouts. Together with investor Ian Hogarth, Nathan co-authors the State of AI Report.

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Outline:

  • (00:00) Intro

  • (02:40) Nathan’s interests in AI, life sciences, investing

  • (04:10) Biotech and tech-bio companies

  • (08:00) Why Nathan went into VC

  • (10:15) Air Street Capital’s focus, investing in AI at an early stage

  • (14:30) Why Nathan believes in specialism over generalism in AI, balancing consumer-focused ML with serious technical work

  • (17:30) The European startup ecosystem

  • (19:30) Spinouts and inventions born in academia

  • (23:35) Spinout.fyi and issues with the European model

    • (27:50) In the UK, only 4% of private AI companies are spinouts

  • (30:00) Solutions

  • (32:55) Origins of the State of AI Report

  • (35:00) Looking back on Nathan’s 2021 predictions: Anthropic and JAX

  • (39:00) AI semiconductors and the difficult reality

  • (42:45) Nathan’s perspectives on AI safety/alignment

  • (46:00) Long-termism and debates, safety research as an input into improving capabilities

  • (49:50) Decentralization and the commercialization of open-source AI (Stability AI, Eleuther AI, etc.)

  • (53:00) Second-order applications of diffusion models—chemistry, small molecule design, genome editors

  • (59:00) Semiconductor restrictions and geopolitics

  • (1:03:45) This year’s State of AI predictions

  • (1:04:30) Trouble in semiconductor startup land

  • (1:08:40) Predictions for AGI startups

  • (1:14:20) How regulation of AGI startups might look

  • (1:16:40) Nathan’s advice for founders, investors, and researchers

  • (1:19:00) Outro

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