Forerunner Charles Hudson want to be careful, but not too careful. The venture capitalist was at an AI confab last month, but he hasn’t made a new AI investment during the current hype cycle.
He is one of many investors who have seen a turning point take over an industry before, with boatloads of capital, new founders, and sometimes fast-paced and FOMO-driven deals. Historically, Hudson didn’t mind sitting outside. “With crypto, for example, it was OK to be close to zero,” he said. “I don’t think I’m ok with zero as an answer for AI. The question is where and how.”
While the “ChatGPT for X” companies are certainly interesting, Hudson says he’s out of the loop for now, because they’re just “wrapper” companies that stitch several pre-existing companies together. “I might regret that, but I guess I’d just say my imagination didn’t provide the answer.” He said a founder recently pitched him an exciting product, but when asked how long it would take someone else to build the same tool, the entrepreneur said “two weeks.”
Hudson’s interest in crypto mirrors what’s happening within every generalist company right now: Are VCs supporting net new startups, or are they letting their existing portfolios lead them to AI, either through seemingly magical pivots or through a shared love and validation for low-flying AI companies? in space?
For example, Jason Lemkin says he hasn’t invested in a pure-play AI startup yet. “I’m not sure if there’s any rush, but I could be wrong,” he said. Most companies in the investor’s portfolio add an AI component to their business. Then there’s Sapphire’s Cathy Gao, who invests in late-stage startups, allowing her to take her time making her investment decisions. In a recent conversation, she described the “arms race” between big companies launching huge products and startups integrating AI to differentiate themselves.