The rise of AI creates opportunities for new startups that can move humanity forward. In the 1990s, the internet was embraced successfully by incumbent companies including Apple and Microsoft, but it also inspired hugely impactful startups like Amazon, Facebook, and Google. Similarly, AI now is empowering forward-looking incumbent companies — many of them former internet startups — and creating massive opportunities for new startups as well.
I’ve been thinking about what I can do to help members of the DeepLearning.AI community who wish to create a company. At AI Fund (where I am managing general partner), I speak with many entrepreneurs who have either started or are thinking of starting a new company. I’ve noticed a few factors that increase the odds of success:
- Domain knowledge coupled with identification of a problem: Do you deeply understand an industry and a specific pain point? Have you experienced and struggled with solving the problem yourself?
- Initial hypothesis of a solution: Do you have a sense that AI-based automation can lead to a solution? Is it technically feasible and likely to solve the problem in a responsible and value-creating way?
- Large market opportunity: Is there a large number of potential customers who have a similar problem?
- Drive and grit: Startups move forward only because the people involved make it happen. Are you ready to struggle through the hard work, pain, and uncertainty that comes with starting a company?
Many startup founders quietly obsess about startup ideas for years, since it can take a lot of thought and investigation to work out the nuances. (Before I cofounded Coursera, I had spent about five years obsessing over how to deliver effective online education. You can read more about my early experiences in “Origins of the Modern MOOC.”)
Identifying a problem is one of the hardest steps. I didn’t understand this until I saw a lot of examples. So many things compete for attention in today’s world (in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer settings) that unless your offering creates compelling value, it’s hard to get people to pay attention. One test of a problem you’ve identified is: Have a number of people told you they would go to the trouble of exploring possible solutions?
I’d love to hear from those of you who are, or aspire to become, entrepreneurs. My teams at DeepLearning.AI and AI Fund plan to hold a series of entrepreneur-oriented events next year. If the success factors I listed above describe you, and especially if you’re still in the early stages (say, from having identified a problem but not yet decided to start a company to having built a product and being ready to raise capital), please take this short survey and let us know how we can help you in your startup journey.