The AI NexusLab

NYC is an emerging hub for AI and AI startups. That is because of the large number of mathematicians, scientists, and programmers trained in AI who work on wall street, because of leading institutes like NYU’s Courant School that work on cutting-edge science in the field, and because of a number of programs aimed at AI startups here in NYC.

A few weeks ago I was at the Future Labs AI Summit to hear about AI from Yann LeCun, Gary Marcus, and many others. Below is a short highlight video of the summit.

Here is a short highlight video of the summit.
 

 
The Future Labs at NYU Tandon are now accepting applications for the second cohort or the AI NexusLab to find AI companies to support.

Applications for the next AI NexusLab cohort close Wednesday, May 3rd and conclude with the next Future Labs AI Summit in November.
 
If you are and AI startup or you are familiar with any early stage artificial intelligence startups who you think could benefit from our program, please have them apply at www.nexuslab.ai/
 
Accepted companies receive
• $100K in funding
• An NYU student fellow for the duration of the program
• mentorship from leading AI faculty and industry experts
• Access to papers and academic research
• Access to data sets
• Partner opportunity to pilot partners (the last cohort included Daimler, Tough Mudder, Quontopian, and others)
• More than 400K worth of support and services.
• Present at the next Future Labs AI Summit (last speakers included Yann LeCun, Gary Marcus, and others)

The Future Labs are also hosting office hours this Friday, April 28th from 1:00pm-5:30pm for teams who have questions about the program at the Data Future Lab – 137 Varick Street, 2nd Floor.

Etsy Studio

Yesterday was a big day for Etsy, a company that I have been invested in for eleven years and on the board of for ten of them.

The company launched Etsy Studio, an entirely new marketplace dedicated to craft supplies.

Craft supplies have always been available on Etsy and still are. But they are a category and, while they make up a material amount of the total volume sold on Etsy every year, they are not front and center in the buyer experience. Etsy thought they could do better for buyers of craft supplies and so, about a year ago, they went about making an entirely new marketplace dedicated to craft supplies.

Etsy Studio leverages all of the considerable investments Etsy has made in its technology stack over the years; search, discovery, checkout, promoted listings, machine learning, and more.

Etsy Studio launches with over 8 million items, compared to something like 200,000 to 300,000 at a typical craft store.

In addition, Etsy Studio features project-based shopping.

You find a project you want to do, like this paper flower spring wreath, and Etsy Studio will allow you to fill a shopping cart with everything you need to make it.

If you are a crafter and are looking for a better way to buy craft supplies and find new projects to do, check out Etsy Studio. I think you will find it to be a delightful experience.

My Talk At MIT

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was going to give the first annual Georges Doriot Lecture at MIT.

I traveled up to MIT on April 13th and gave this talk. I really enjoyed doing it and I want to thank MIT for doing it.

Starting Is Easy, Finishing Is Hard

Starting a company has gotten much easier over the past decade.

The capital requirements to get started have come way down in both software and hardware businesses.

The supply of seed and venture capital has increased dramatically as well.

And there are all sorts of programs aimed at helping entrepreneurs get started.

All of this has caused a rapid expansion of entrepreneurship, startups, and innovation.

This is all great.

The one thing that has not gotten appreciably easier in the last decade is finishing.

Finishing can be anything that ends a startup project.

It can be an M&A exit, becoming a sustainable business, becoming a public company, or it could also be failing and shutting down.

None of those have gotten easier in the last decade.

There was a period where the “acquihire” was a thing and many companies that could not figure out how to become a business got bought for their talent.

But it feels like that wave has come and gone.

And so entrepreneurs and the investors who support them are back to grinding it out, trying to get to the finish line.

And, for many, that finish line feels like it is moving farther and farther away every step you take.

Startups are not for the faint of heart, both on the founder and investor side.

It takes great tenacity to see things through. And I think that may be truer today than ever.

What Facebook Can Tell Us About Us

Stephen Wolfram wrote an interesting post back in 2013. I just stumbled upon it today (via Twitter).

I like this chart a lot:

The blue line is men, the red line is women.

A few of these results surprised me.

I would have thought women are more interested in books than men. At least that is how it is in our family.

I would have thought interest in travel would increase significantly in late middle age.

I would have thought interest in music would tail off more steeply with age.

Fascinating stuff.

Token

Our portfolio company Coinbase opened the doors yesterday to a project they have been working on for a long time.

It is called Token and its a mobile browser for Ethereum apps. But it is also a messenger (based on the Signal Protocol from Whisper Systems) and an Ethereum wallet.

The plan is to set Token up as a separate business:

“In the same way a web browser allows you to access web pages, Token allows you to access third party Ethereum applications.”

The Ethereum ecosystem is emerging quickly and there are a lot of interesting things going on in it.

Token is about giving developers a canvas to showcase their Ethereum apps, with a wallet and a messenger connected to it.

The goals of the Token project are to:

  1. Provide financial services to the ~2B people in the developing world who have a cell phone, but don’t have access to a bank account.
  2. Make it dramatically easier for people to build and use Ethereum applications.
  3. Shift digital currency from being just a speculative investment to being a payment network for useful goods and services.

Token is in a public developer beta. It is operating on a testnet so no real money is in use yet:

We’re releasing the developer preview of Token today. It is still early days, and you can expect some bugs (so please be kind in your reviews). For today’s launch, we are using testnet Ethereum, so there is no real money to lose if you encounter an issue. We plan to continue shipping updates approximately every week, and move to mainnet in the coming months for a wider release.

You can install the Token app on Android and iOS today.

If you’re a developer you can read through our developer documentation.

I’m fredwilson on Token in case you want to message me there:

I expect this general idea (a developer platform, combined with a mobile messenger, combined with cryptocurrency for payment) is going to be a powerful combination. The blockchain sector has been waiting for its “Netscape moment.” The web browser made the world wide web understandable and accessible by mainstream users. I think something like Token can do the same for blockchain applications and I expect we will see a number of different approaches to this general idea.

Kickstarter’s Request For Projects

Our portfolio company Kickstarter published a blog post yesterday requesting certain kinds of projects in the Design and Technology category:

as part of our endless quest for projects, we’ve decided to try something new. Inspired in part by Y Combinator’s requests for startups, we’re going public with a list of the things we’d love to see more of on Kickstarter. We hope this inspires creators who are working in these areas to get in touch. If your project fits the bill, we can help make it shine and spotlight it for our community of 13 million backers.

The three areas they are most interested in are:

  1. Tools For Creating Things
  2. Boundary Pushers
  3. Delightful Design

If you are a creator who works in the Design and Technology category, please read this post and if you have a project in these areas, please consider doing a Kickstarter for it.