The world is on the brink of a revolution, one that rivals the disruptive force of the internet's advent in the 1990s. Generative AI, with its transformative capabilities, is set to reshape the way we learn, work, and live. The Startup20 Shikhar event, organized under the G20 initiative spearheaded by India, recently shed light on the immense potential of startups in harnessing the power of artificial intelligence.
Renowned industry expert Christophe Aulnette, Former CEO of Microsoft France and Senior Advisor de Seven2 shared his valuable insights, highlighting the significance of generative AI, its regulatory challenges, and its profound impact on businesses, startups, and job markets.
Christophe Aulnette expressed his belief that generative AI is the next major disruption. Drawing parallels to the internet's impact when it came into existence, he emphasized the forthcoming fundamental changes that will revolutionize various aspects of society.
"Yeah, I think ChatGPT. I mean, Generative AI is big. It's a disruption, probably one of disruption of the size like the internet burst in the 90s. It's going to be a fundamental change and a huge impact on the way we learn, we work, we live. So it's really a revolution and Open AI is the first example but I think we will see a lot of other big startups emerging around the LLM. And it's true that Sam Altman was on a tour and he was also in Europe. I think he has a kind of double language. On one side he said, okay, we need to have more regulation but at the same time he was saying okay, but regulation should not prevent innovation. It was kind of double language and it's a very competitive world and I think there is no way we can stop that innovation from happening," Aulnette said.
Striking the Balance: Regulation vs Innovation
While OpenAI stands as a pioneering example, Aulnette expects the emergence of numerous other startups in the generative AI space. He also highlighted the competitive nature of this field, where innovation cannot be impeded, despite the need for regulatory measures.
There needs some regulation just at least in terms of ethics, regarding how you protect personal data, and how you avoid too many biases. I think the G7 nations actually have launched, I don't know if it's a nice word, the Hiroshima process, which is about building that regulation because I think the leaders of the G7 have also clearly said that there needs to be some regulation but we'll have to find the right balance between regulating and also letting innovation blossom, he said.
Data-driven Training: Key to Generative AI Success
The uniqueness of AI lies in its reliance on data to train algorithms. With the vastness of the Indian market, the acquisition of substantial amounts of data becomes feasible. This realization led to the initiation of the Startup20 engagement group, which fosters collaboration between startups globally. Aulnette stressed the importance of openness, stating that to build robust generative AI capabilities, training on data from not only India but also Europe, the United States, and China is crucial. At the same time, ethical considerations, such as personal data protection and minimizing biases, necessitate a balance between regulation and innovation.
“So the big difference with AI is that you need to feed the algorithm with data. And data, when you see the size of the Indian market, of course, it's pretty huge. You can get a lot of data at the same time. That's why also we need to have the initiative Startup20 because we need to open because if you want to build a very strong generative AI capacity based on data, you cannot just train on the Indian data, you need to train on India, on Europe, on US, on China data if you want to be a worldwide player. So this openness is absolutely required,” the Senior Advisor to de Seven2 said.
Aulnette, the former CEO of Microsoft France, Netgem, and Altran, delved into the influence of generative AI on businesses. He observed that today, every company worldwide is evaluating the impact of AI on their operations. In Europe, even the executive committees of Fortune 500 companies are closely examining this transformative force.
"Today there is not one company in the world that is not asking itself what is the impact of generative AI on my business. I can see that at least in Europe, all the big Fortune 500 there, all the executive committees are looking at that and saying okay, what is impact for any business might be impacted," he mentioned.
Startups Need to Adapt & Seize AI Opportunities
Aulnette stressed the agility and adaptability of startups in seizing the opportunities presented by generative AI. This requires a willingness to pivot and inject innovation into existing products, ensuring alignment with the demands of the funding landscape.
“For startups, a keyword for them is pivot. So well, if I have built a startup that is doing a very nice, I don't know, software, CRM software, then Chat GPT is coming so I say okay, how can I include a chatbot in my product? How can I inject innovation into my product? So startups have to be flexible, they have to be able to pivot at the right time all the more. Today we are in the funding winter and really being as frank, the only funding that is really skyrocketing is on AI and Generative AI. So I think for a startup the best advice to understand what is the impact of generative AI, what kind of opportunity I can seize, and adjust my pitch and my product to be able to get that funding,” shared Aulnette.
Generative AI: Impact on Jobs and Productivity
Furthermore, the advent of generative AI also holds promise for enhancing productivity and labor markets. Aulnette noted that generative AI can serve as a catalyst for increased efficiency. By accomplishing more with fewer employees, companies aim to optimize their operations. Flexible working laws, coupled with the potential for injecting productivity into the economy, fuel optimism about the positive impact of generative AI on job markets and GDP growth.
"And with regard to the impact on jobs, we see also generative more broadly as an opportunity to increase productivity. The countries particularly may be a bit different for large demography as India but for European European Union there is no unemployment anymore and the race for talent is very intense and a lot of companies see the Chat GPT and Generative revolution as a way to be much more efficient doing more with fewer people. And also the working laws are getting a bit more flexible in terms of hours worked and so on and so forth. And a lot of people are seeing that in a positive way saying okay, generative AI might enable to generate GDP per annum growth just by injecting more productivity in the economy," he remarked.
Aulnette acknowledged the cyclical nature of economic shifts and emphasized that periods of crisis often give rise to groundbreaking opportunities. Reflecting on past instances such as the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2001 and the financial crisis of 2009, he highlighted the birth of industry giants like Airbnb, Uber, Facebook, and Google in their wake. With generative AI poised to shape a new era of startups, existing ventures must concentrate on cash flow and profitability while casualties become an inevitable part of the constructive and disruptive forces driving capitalism.
"Well, it's not the first time we have that. I'm old enough to have lived 2001 bubble burst, then 2009 after the financial crisis and 2011 was not very good and now it's another one. So in those periods, you have to remind that Airbnb, Uber were born in 2009, Facebook and Google after the 2001 crisis. So there will be opportunities, particularly around this Generative AI. So a new era of startups will emerge and for the ones that have raised funds and now the only thing that they have to do is to focus on cash and making sure they find some profitability. So there will be casualties for sure, but it's part of this destructive or constructive capitalism and we have to accept it," the Former CEO of Microsoft France concluded.
The evolution of generative AI promises to be a monumental force reshaping industries and offering unprecedented opportunities for startups worldwide. The key lies in striking the right balance between regulation and innovation to ensure ethical practices while harnessing the immense potential of this revolutionary technology.