Venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya appears to have drummed up popularity for himself and his supercomputer AI by taking a swipe at mammoth IT company, IBM. The former AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) officer earlier called IBM’s supercomputer AI Watson, “a joke” and disparaged it for being named after a Sherlock Holmes character. In truth, the supercomputer AI is named after the first CEO of IBM, Thomas J. Watson. Several days later, on CNBC.com’s Closing Bell, Palihapitiya said that he should not have called it a joke and that he should be more careful with his words.
Palihapitiya is the managing partner of the Social+Capital Partnership, which he founded in 2011. He believes that when it comes to AI, Syapse, a venture he has founded in healthcare AI is building something better than Watson. Syapse features an AI which helps health-care providers deploy medicine programs in a focused, and high-precision manner. Social+Capital is a major investor in Syapse.
Palihapitiya: Watson AI is Over-Rated
His complaint is that he thinks that IBM is out-marketing the companies that he has backed. He said, “I have companies that we’ve been building and incubating for years in things like cancer and diabetes where we’re bringing machine learning to the market where we’ve competed with competitors including IBM.”
Palihapitiya worked with AIM and Facebook before becoming a venture capitalist. He explained his point of view as “the business of buying things that can grow in meaningful multiples . . . over five to 10 year periods.” Regarding AI, he thinks that it is, a business that I think can generate an enormous amount of cash. I think they’ll acquire aggressively.
“…it is, a business that I think can generate an enormous amount of cash. I think they’ll acquire aggressively.”
IBM has replied to Palihapitiya’s comment, explaining that, “Watson is not a consumer gadget but the A.I. platform for real business. Watson is in clinical use in the U.S. and 5 other countries. It has been trained on 6 types of cancers with plans to add 8 more this year.” IBM also added that “beyond oncology, Watson is in use by nearly half of the top 25 life sciences companies, major manufacturers for IoT applications, retail and financial services firms, and partners like GM, H&R Block and SalesForce.com. Does any serious person consider saving lives, enhancing customer service, and driving business innovation a joke?”
There is a bold difference in viewpoint between the venture capitalist and IBM. Syapse and the other companies that Palihapitiya controls may have great AI implementations. However, Watson has been in the business far longer and has proven itself as a viable AI platform to its customers. Who do you think will pull ahead in the AI race to the top?