A marching band, a red carpet and a DJ who codes her beats are all things you can get before coffee (and a business card) at the Upfront Summit, one of venture’s most awaited conferences. But not even a marching band could pull focus away from the true star of the show: AI.

Upfront Summit founder Mark Suster and partners Kerry Bennett and Kobie Fuller even performed a sketch centered around AI. The takeaway? AI is a tempting sector to invest in, but it’s too still early to trust blindly.

This isn’t new; hyped-up technologies often get outsized interest. But the atmosphere is different from what it was in 2021 when investors were throwing billions of dollars at 15-minute grocery delivery companies and web3. Venture dry powder is locked up, deals are getting done slower, and some investors are still licking their wounds from the downturn thus far.

AI is feeling it. According to a TechCrunch analysis of PitchBook data, “generative AI companies aren’t going to even set a local quarterly maximum for fundraising in Q1 2023.” Understanding how recently humbled check-writers are thinking about AI will help tech better understand how to execute moonshot visions.


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