Nathan Benaich: The State of AI Report
On trends in AI, international startup ecosystems, and contributing to the community.
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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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(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
(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