We hurtle down the highway, well above the speed limit, moving easily over the smooth road, trusting our Tesla’s Autopilot to handle the slight bends as they come.
But as we enter the Golden Gate Bridge heading toward San Francisco, the lane narrows, encroached on by construction and temporary barriers on the left, the road becomes unpredictable, uneven and full of cracks — I immediately take control of the wheel.
Bob Rosin, partner at DefyBob Rosin, partner at Defy.vc
Anyone who has tried Autopilot in a Tesla is sure to have had a similar experience. It’s good enough to handle the monotonous long highway stretches. But when the driving gets challenging, it’s clearly not up to the task.
But what’s wrong with this picture? Is there some inherent reason why AI should be good at the easy, mindless tasks, but bad at the hard ones? Logically, as processing power increases and models improve, at some threshold Autopilot ought to be better than a human.
A few years from now, when the road narrows and the driving gets challenging, I expect to turn Autopilot on.
If we look at the state of AI companies today, we find parallels. With the world agog at the surprising abilities of ChatGPT, new companies pop up every day purportedly serving novel cases across every industry.
For the most part, these use cases are analogous to driving along a smooth, paved highway. They fall primarily into “easy-task AI” scenarios: high volume, low criticality and, relative to other scenarios, high tolerance for error. Most AI-based tools today focus on repetitive tasks, letting humans address the high-value, mission-critical situations.
Some examples: More than $1 billion in venture capital has been raised for AI startups in customer service, including Uniphore, Forethought, Moveworks, Observe.AI and Gorgias, in addition to products from incumbents such as Intercom’s AI bot, Fin.
Enterprises may tolerate errors in support workflows, provided a large volume of inquiries can be addressed cost-effectively; customers will always escalate to a human if the AI doesn’t get the job done.
The state of AI in legal is similar: DoNotPay is a brilliant example of using AI to brute force solve legal issues where it’s OK to sometimes be wrong, such as fighting parking tickets, canceling subscriptions and myriad other fairly low-stakes legal tasks.
Similarly in medicine, companies like Abridge save time by automating clinical notes. In this case, AI is not replacing doctors, just making them more efficient.
But is that the future? It seems odd to relegate AI models — trained on more data than an individual could ever internalize — to only relieving humans of tasks that most would consider repetitive, mundane or “easy.”
Instead, it seems far more likely that AI will begin to take on the hard tasks.
What does the world look like when the most difficult, mission-critical, high-risk tasks are the ones that AI does best?
We are seeing hints already. Researchers from MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital are developing an AI model that analyzes CT scans, potentially detecting lung cancer years earlier than a human radiologist. Is there a day in the future that a bot with a vast corpus of knowledge of previous cases will be your primary care physician?
The U.S. Air Force has demonstrated the X-62A Vista, an AI-piloted fighter jet with faster response times and greater precision than a human pilot.
Defy.vc portfolio company Aircover.ai is building a virtual sales engineer: Imagine if a sales rep on their first day already knows how to flawlessly answer all the questions that would have required a product expert or SE to be on the call? Would you ever do a high-stakes sales call without your AI assistant?
As AI takes on tasks beyond the capabilities of humans, here are some industries we can expect to be impacted:
Medicine: AI systems that analyze clinical data and predict diagnoses with more precision than human doctors, and provide recommendations for medication and treatment plans. AI-assisted surgery is in its infancy. Drug discovery is already being revolutionized by AI.
Transportation: Autonomous vehicles are only the beginning. Beyond platooning of trucks, imagine if vehicles on the road communicate with one another and form a network, acting effectively as a single organism to adaptively minimize congestion and operate at higher speeds safely, rather than compounding delays as each driver responds.
Enterprise SaaS: Why must every CIO reinvent the wheel in their organizations? Internal systems will be self-integrating; automation will connect systems from disparate vendors to achieve complex tasks. Intelligent analysis of data will be through conversational interfaces.
Security: Advanced models already detect fraud by analyzing patterns across millions of transactions, far beyond the skills of any human. Sophisticated AI systems are already scoring risk across hundreds of thousands of employees. We will live in a future without passwords, where enterprise security systems operate silently behind the scenes adapting to signals from a shared security network across enterprises.
Workforce of the future: The questions are inevitable. What is the role of humans in this new world? What are the interfaces between humans and the new intelligent systems? What governance models are needed? How much autonomy do we accord these systems? What skills should we be teaching our children to prepare for a future where the hard intellectual challenges are handled by intelligent systems?
I’d like to hear what use cases for AI you are envisioning for the future.
Bob Rosin is an investment partner at Defy.vc. As a founder, serial entrepreneur and former leadership team member at Skype, LinkedIn and Stripe, he’s experienced all facets of startup life. Rosin serves on the boards of GajiGesa, Elevate Security and Aircover. He’s also an active angel investor and adviser to companies including, among others, Stripe, Workato, Tenor (acquired by Google), Cursor Data (acquired by DataRobot), MindMeld (acquired by Cisco), Instawork, Tonal Fitness, Accord and Prairie Health.
Aalto, a Bay Area-based digital homebuying platform, has launched in Los Angeles. The online resource, which strays away from the traditional broker approach, has a variety of consumer economic incentives – including allowing buyers to keep the majority of agent commissions.
“It’s never been harder to become a homeowner, especially in Los Angeles,” Nick Narodny, founder and chief executive of Aalto, said. “Aalto sees a massive opportunity to help countless buyers across the metropolitan area go through the process faster and put more savings back in their hands.”
The fully integrated web-based platform is meant to streamline the homebuying process, from start to finish, targeting self-reliant buyers.
“We have been on a mission to give power to the consumer,” Narodny said, adding that Aalto takes 1% as a commission and gives buyers up to 1.5% back as a rebate.
“One thing we say at Aalto is, ‘we can’t fix home prices, but we can fix fees which can impact on prices,’” Narodny said.
Since the company’s inception in 2018, Aalto has saved users nearly $3 million in fees, with $28,000 being the average amount saved per transaction and some saving over $75,000 just from buying with Aalto.
Apart from savings, the company also taunts its unique characteristics, including direct access to agent-level data and a 24/7 chat feature online which allows users to seek advice on demand. And, once buyers put in an offer on a home, they are matched with non-commissioned agents online to walk them through the process.
By digitizing the process and letting buyers take control, the company has been able to reduce operational costs and take out some of the friction associated with the homebuying experience.
“We find that if you insert a salesperson into the middle, those decisions can be swayed,” Narodny said. “We try and empower you to make your own decision and give you all the data that you need to do so and also let you keep more cost so that you can afford more home.”
The launch in Los Angeles marks the company’s second market launch for Aalto, following the San Francisco Bay Area, with all the same features carrying over.
“We actually think Los Angeles will be potentially a better market than the San Francisco market for a number of reasons,” Narodny said. “We find that people in Los Angeles are just more open to trying unique kinds of real estate opportunities.”
The company’s local operations will be led by Kate Geremia, who recently joined Aalto and formerly led West Coast operations at Bird. Since the launch, the company has already received multiple offers for homes in the county, including in neighborhoods like Bel Air, Pacoima, Reseda, Lancaster and Woodland Hills.
“We have seen that in today’s environment, where you have affordability at an all-time high, any edge you can give consumers is welcome,” Narodny said. “By prioritizing their unique needs, we’re increasing their buying power so they can get ahead of the market conditions that are leaving too many buyers on the sidelines.”
As Aalto attracts more prospective Los Angeles homebuyers, the company is looking to expand across all of California, and eventually into new states.
2023 was a tumultuous year for the venture capital industry. The
first quarter of the year saw the collapse of its well-known partner, Silicon Valley Bank, and high interest rates helped to slow the pace of investing significantly compared to its 2021 highs. Tech and startup layoffs also reached a peak this year, with more than 180,000 jobs being cut across the tech industry, according to Crunchbase.
However, despite the economic downturn, there were several bright
spots, including huge deals in generative AI and AI infrastructure
And many young enterprising venture capitalists were able to
source hot startups for their funds. Some even braved the tougher
economic climate and successfully raised funds of their own.
This year, Business Insider asked the most important VCs across the US to name the most promising VCs in their cities.
Business Insider also asked the general public and last year’s rising stars who they thought should make the cut.
The investors selected come from a wide array of backgrounds and
range from associates to founding partners at their funds, and we
also threw in a few picks of our own based on the investor’s
performance throughout this year.
And just like last year, more of this year’s rising stars are women than men, indicating that more women are being brought into the pipeline of the traditionally male-dominated venture capital
Scroll to see 2023’s rising stars of venture capital, organized
alphabetically by the investor’s name.
Defy.vc has recently tapped Agarwal as its newest general partner.
Based in San Francisco, she brings seven years of experience from
Redpoint, where she led investments in fintech and vertical
software that’s mission critical for customers. Her portfolio
includes dental practice Tend, livestream shopping app Whatnot,
and infrastructure developer Livekit.
In her new role, Agarwal is expanding her scope of investments to
include healthcare, climate tech, and marketplaces — a category
that hits close to home. Before she got into investing, Agarwal
started a social website for finding roommates and put in a brief
stint at Thumbtack.
Outside of her day job, Agarwal writes a newsletter unpacking the
biggest fintech news and trends of the day, titled Make Cents, that garners tens of thousands of views per post.
Even in a world that feels increasingly digital, we’re growing only more dependent on physical transportation infrastructure of all kinds. And as electrification, autonomy, and other technologies come to the fore, everything, from automobiles to airplanes, is evolving faster than ever. These organizations stand out by making the newest tech more accessible, ensuring that the most precious cargo gets delivered safely, and combating industry shortages.
For finding the best route
Airspace Technologies is using AI to ensure that the most important shipments—such as organs for donation, semiconductor wafers, and aircraft components—arrive as quickly as possible. The company identifies the best path for the time-sensitive items across a number of transportation methods, factoring in aspects such as routes, airlines, and vehicle types. Airspace claims packages arrive 20% faster and are three times more likely to avoid delays.
The relentless march of technology continues to power today’s rapidly evolving economy. Advancements in fields like artificial intelligence, blockchain offerings, and cloud computing continue to shape seemingly every sector. And though there are thousands of interesting new products and services released to an eager public every year, a select group of technologies manage to stand above the rest.
A panel of 18 Fast Company editors and writers selected this year’s 119 Next Big Things in Tech winners, featuring both industry titans and fledgling brands. The winners span 29 categories, such as AI and Data, E-Commerce and Retail, Robotics and Automation, and Security and Privacy. (Here’s the methodology we use to choose honorees.) In our evaluations, we looked beyond just immediate triumphs (though near-term impact is certainly a factor) to consider whether the innovations contain enough latent power to burgeon into even greater significance in the years ahead.
Whether the winning company is using augmented reality to improve our real-world vision or further democratizing electric-vehicle charging, each reflects fresh thinking and cutting-edge technology in ways that impressed us—and we’re betting the technology on display here will impress you too.
For time-sensitive deliveries such as donated organs and aircraft components, Airspace uses AI to identify the fastest and safest delivery methods.
Defy.vc, a Woodside, CA – based early-stage venture capital firm, announced that Medha Agarwal joined as General Partner and Amy Yin joined as Venture Partner.
This strategic expansion follows the launch of its $300M Fund III earlier this year.
Medha Agarwal will lead investments into companies from inception through Series A. With over seven years of venture expertise, she has led investments across vertical SaaS, fintech, marketplaces, and healthcare. Prior to joining Agarwal, she was a Partner at Redpoint Ventures where she led investments in companies including Whatnot, Tend, Proper Finance and more. Agarwal started her venture career at Bessemer Venture Partners, having previously co-founded and built Roomidex and skedge.me after beginning her career at Bain & Company.
As founder & CEO of OfficeTogether, a former Defy portfolio company acquired by Envoy, Yin has firsthand experience as a founder. Her technical journey spans a decade, with engineering roles at Facebook and at Coinbase, where she was an Engineering Manager for Coinbase.com during the company’s growth. Yin has also been an active angel investor since 2017, with investments in Pave, Lumos, Gem, On Deck, and more. Yin is a Harvard graduate with a BA in Computer Science, with roots in Onalaska, WI.
Led by Neil Sequeira, Founder & General Partner, Defy.vc is an early-stage venture capital firm dedicated to investing in startups as they transition into category-defining industry leaders.
Defy.vc initially partners with founders from inception through Series A but is able to support them throughout the lifetime of a business with capital and hands-on collaboration. The firm invests across diverse categories, including enterprise SaaS, fintech, AI, healthcare, marketplaces, and consumer-oriented businesses.
In recent years, the Defy.vc portfolio has had numerous liquidity events and acquisitions by a number of companies including Patreon, Circle and HackerOne. The firm retains substantial stakes in prominent private companies, including Airspace, Apploi, Aalto, Bazaar and many other industry-defining market leaders.
– Defy.vc, a Woodside, Calif.-based venture capital firm, hired Medha Agarwal as a general partner and Amy Yin as a venture partner. Formerly, Agarwal was with Redpoint Ventures and Yin was with OfficeTogether.
Connie chats with Medha Agarwal and Amy Yin, who are joining Defy as a GP and Venture Partner, respectively.
Man! If you can pull your attention away from trying to figure out what the hell just happened at OpenAI, we have a new StrictlyVC Download for you this week. Featuring Medha Agarwal and Amy Yin, we talked with the pair because both just joined the early-stage venture firm Defy, Agarwal as a general partner and Yin as a venture partner. It’s a big deal for both, particularly Agarwal, who spent the last seven years with Redpoint Ventures, where she was a partner.
We discussed a range of things, including valuations right now, how they’re approaching AI as an investment theme, and how interested or not they are in all things web3, given that Bitcoin is staging a comeback. (Yin logged several years at Coinbase as an engineer.) Hope you enjoy it.
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