Big Data is a bigger deal than venture capital in AI

AI panel
Optio3 CEO Sridhar Chandrashekar, far right, discusses issues surrounding artificial intelligence with moderator Melissa Hellmann of The Seattle Times, Dave Thurman of Northeastern University and Ben Wilson of Intellectual Ventures. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

“Data is the new oil” may be a classic cliche characterizing how important raw numbers are for the computer industry, but when it comes to artificial intelligence ventures, the cliche may not go far enough.

“One of the big blocks for AI is data,” Ben Wilson, director of the Center for Intelligent Devices at Bellevue, Wash.-based Intellectual Ventures, said today at a forum about AI presented as part of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Speaker Series. “Traditionally, startup companies need capital. Now, if you’re doing AI, you need capital and you also need data. And you’re going to burn through your data before you burn through your capital.”

Wilson pointed out that the big players in the AI market are the companies that have the data, whether it’s Amazon or Microsoft, Facebook or Google.

“Before you have a good idea, start with data,” he said. “And if you’re someone who has a great idea but you have no data, that’s going to be a big roadblock for you, and you’re going to have to find some collaborators or partners who have access to the data you need.”

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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