Decoding How OpenAI Helps Startups; Will AI Take Our Jobs or Not?

"The AI Economy" explores how OpenAI works with startups, analyzes new study saying job displacement won't be as great, and how organizations view the use of AI.
"The AI Economy," a newsletter exploring AI's impact on business, work, society and tech.
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The Prompt

Silicon Valley’s highly sought-after startup, OpenAI, stands as the epitome of the AI era, enabling businesses to seamlessly integrate generative AI technology into their operations. Given the high demand, how does the maker of ChatGPT efficiently allocate resources and select startups to support?

At the helm of OpenAI’s strategic startups program is Marc Manara, leading the initiative that acts as the vital link connecting OpenAI with its committed partners. In a conversation with Dorothy and Andrew Chang of the Lynx Collective, he shed light on what his company looks for in startups, along with tips on how to build for ChatGPT.

Unsurprisingly, Manara says his team tends to work closely with larger VC-backed startups building AI into their product’s foundation. These are likely companies that are pushing the technology to its limits, so it makes sense that OpenAI would want to remain in contact.

A Signal For Identifying Promising Startups

To help track interesting use cases, the company launched the Converge startup program in 2022 as part of OpenAI’s Startup Fund. The team believed the rise of AI would generate a “Cambrian explosion of new products, services, and applications.” OpenAI didn’t want valuable startups to flounder without guidance, but it can’t help everyone. So it developed Converge to identify candidates that might benefit the most from its assistance.

Participants of this six-week program are made up of “exceptional engineers, designers, researchers, and product builders using AI to reimagine the world.” They’ll be given $1 million in funding from OpenAI and receive tutelage from the company in the form of tech talks, office hours, social events, and networking opportunities with experts.

Manara didn’t divulge the precise criteria the company considers when selecting startups to support, but the breadth and diversity of AI applications could play a significant role. He shared with the Changs that his team serves as OpenAI’s listening ear, channeling feedback from startups and actively prioritizing the most valuable insights to shape the company’s product roadmap.

So an entrepreneur building an exceptional edge case using ChatGPT may attract Manara’s attention versus someone developing something much simpler.

Getting Started with AI

Artificial intelligence may feel overwhelming for some entrepreneurs and developers that they’re paralyzed by indecision, unable to determine the best way to effectively incorporate the technology into their offering. “If that’s not the core of the product…it’s thinking about what are the highest value use cases that you might have to improve your customer experience,” Manara states. “Improve the product experience in your core product.”

He urges builders to explore OpenAI’s website, highlighting the presence of “great quick starts” and a wellspring of inspiration waiting to be tapped.

And you can just see, how do you get something up and running really fast? The Playground…is another great place where you can just use some of these models, test out the different capabilities without having to write code, see, how might you use some of your real data? Or customer use cases, applying this technology to see, how does it perform and get some experience using it. And then from there, the last resource that I would highly recommend…is our OpenAI cookbook…but it’s a long set of examples with actual code and explanations for solving different types of problems using OpenAI’s APIs, as well as other design patterns that we would recommend or that we’ve seen other customers use.

What about companies not rooted in tech or AI? “Sometimes the pitfalls are just really trying to figure out what is the highest value use case,” Manara remarks. He explains that many corporate executives are being pushed into AI by their boards. In response, they have a “knee-jerk reaction” where they “try to build something using OpenAI or different competitor products and create a really inconsequential feature because it feels important to have an AI something in my product.”

No matter the size or age of a business, Manara stresses his team’s job is to help companies narrow down their objectives to understand the real usefulness of AI.

What are the use cases? What are the solutions that you can build that have impact inside your company or in products that you’re making available to your customers and identify what the high priority, high urgency potential for impact.

Builders need to consider how AI will align with the business objectives that they want to achieve versus just creating an AI feature in the product. Think before you build. Manara emphasizes that this type of pre-work thinking is vital and “you can be successful or fail just in that lack of planning, a lack of strategic approach to building with AI.”

▶️ Read more of Manara’s interview here (Lynx Collective)

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A Closer Look

A scene from a classic "South Parks" episode where the townspeople complain about job losses.
A scene from a classic “South Parks” episode where the townspeople complain about job losses.

Certainly, there’s a consensus that artificial intelligence will inevitably influence the workforce, whether for better or worse, right?

The real ambiguity lies in the extent of job displacement it will bring. Notably, robot automation has already left its mark on factory workers. Now, the rise of gen AI will affect creative professionals, encompassing journalists, writers (myself included), artists, celebrities, and audio and video artisans.

So are we at risk of losing our jobs to AI? It still depends…

A study from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) offers a more positive outlook. Researchers say they’ve found that 23 percent of wages paid for workplace tasks involving vision (emphasis mine) are “economically viable for AI automation.”

“In other words, it’s only economically sensible to replace human labor with AI in about one-fourth of the jobs where vision is a key component of the work.”

Why is vision so important as part of this study? As TechCrunch’s Kyle Wiggers reports, these are jobs “involving tasks like inspecting products for quality at the end of a manufacturing line.”

Because of this, CSAIL’s research isn’t inclusive of all types of AI. Specifically, it doesn’t factor in the impact of gen AI.

Nonetheless, the study suggests that while AI will impact certain workers, the magnitude of its effects may not be as extensive as initially anticipated.

My take: The perpetual drive for technological innovation remains dedicated to replacing human labor in the pursuit of cost reduction for companies. The rapid ascent of AI intensifies workforce apprehensions, with concerns about accelerated job displacement. Anticipate a steady stream of studies providing diverse insights on this issue. What’s more, conscientious business leaders, politicians, and employee advocates will continue to raise awareness, urging tech companies to act responsibly, and actively explore avenues to generate more opportunities for human employment.

Today’s Visual Snapshot

Is your company equipped with a robust AI strategy? The advent of ChatGPT has sparked what can be described as the “shiny metal object” syndrome in the realm of generative AI. However, the crucial question remains: is this innovative technology experiencing widespread adoption in the corporate domain?

This month, Deloitte published its “State of Generative AI in the Enterprise” report (PDF) surveying more than 2,800 business and technology leaders using gen AI in their organizations. The team found while there’s “persistent excitement” for the tech and there’s an expectation of “substantial transformative impacts in the short term,” uncertainty remains about how gen AI will impact workforces and society.

One of the above charts highlights sentiment toward gen AI, with a majority saying it elicits excitement.

Another tracks how confident leaders feel in their organization’s expertise, with a large percentage of respondents saying they believe they’re skilled enough to deal with gen AI.

The last chart examines the benefits companies hope gen AI will provide, with more than half of those surveyed saying the technology will improve efficiency and productivity. Reducing costs, improving existing products and services, and facilitating innovation and growth follow.

Overall, those polled are eager to leverage AI within their organizations but are reluctant to offer a full-throated endorsement. Trepidation over lost jobs and the dangers to humanity remain.

▶️ Read Deloitte’s “State of Generative AI in the Enterprise” report (PDF)

Quote This

“History shows that new technologies can create new markets and healthy competition. As companies race to develop and monetize AI, we must guard against tactics that foreclose this opportunity. Our study will shed light on whether investments and partnerships pursued by dominant companies risk distorting innovation and undermining fair competition.”

— FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan on the agency’s probe of gen AI investments and partnerships

Neural Nuggets

An AI-generated image of a robot reading a newspaper.

🏭 Industry Insights

🤖 Machine Learning

✏️ Generative AI

⚙️ Hardware

💼 Business and Marketing

📺 Media and Entertainment

💰 Funding

⚖️ Copyright and Regulatory Issues

💥 Disruption and Misinformation

🔎 Opinions and Research

🎧 Podcasts

End Output

I hope you enjoyed diving into the latest articles on “The AI Economy!”

I’m eager to hear your thoughts on this edition. What struck a chord with you, and what left you scratching your head? Leave a comment or shoot me a message on LinkedIn with your feedback — it’s the secret sauce that makes this journey worthwhile.

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