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It isn’t just 40% of European start-ups claiming to “do AI” when they aren’t

MMC Ventures, an investment firm based in London, released the results of a study it conducted of 2,830 European start-ups who claimed to be using AI and found that 40% of them, in fact, aren’t using AI at all.

I would bet that the numbers here in the United States are the same if not more. Three years ago you could walk up and down Silicon Valley and find almost zero start-ups claiming to be an “AI company” and now that same stroll would have you hard pressed to find a start-up that doesn’t claim to be an AI company.

The simple fact is that it is absolutely impossible for so many companies to be “AI companies” given the talent constraints in the AI space. There simply aren’t that many AI experts and specialists to fill the senior roles at all of the start-ups claiming to be AI companies. And of course start-ups aren’t the only companies fighting over this talent. Every large technology company and most of the Fortune 500 are hiring anyone who can spell AI.

Part of the problem is also around semantics. Artificial Intelligence is an all encompassing term that includes a lot of technologies. Additionally, many of the larger technology players have made some AI tools available, “AI in the cloud” which allows companies to automate some tasks and improve their analytics. So while I am sure that there are some companies knowingly not telling the truth about their AI initiatives, others are stretching the truth around what they are doing. I encounter start-up founders all of the time that are taking advantage of the hype around AI to get exposure and higher valuations but the things they are using “AI” for is off the shelf and of limited competitive value. In other words, they are not pushing the boundaries of AI and creating something new and amazing.

As someone who lived through the “AI winter” in the mid-2000’s that was brought about primarily because expectations of what AI could at the time outstripped capabilities, which then led to disillusionment and disinvestment, I am relieved and happy that people are starting to shine a light on this issue today so as an industry we can be more clear about what AI is so that investors and CXO’s have a better picture. If we aren’t careful and if we allow every company who uses TensforFlow in their product to claim that they are doing AI it will not be too far off in the future where it will start snowing ag


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