The debate happening inside of every VC firm
Precursor’s Charles Hudson wants to be cautious but not too cautious. The venture capitalist was at an AI confab last month, but he has not yet made a new AI investment during the current hype cycle.
He’s one of many investors who have seen an inflection point take over a sector before, bringing in boatloads of capital, new founders and, at times, speedy and FOMO-driven deals. Historically, Hudson hasn’t minded sitting out. “With crypto, for example, I was OK being at almost zero,” he said. “I don’t think I’m OK with zero as the answer for AI. The question is where and how.”
While the “ChatGPT for X” companies are certainly interesting, Hudson says that he’s out on them for now because they are just “wrapper” companies stitching together different preexisting companies. “I might regret that, but I think I would just say, my imagination didn’t provide the answer.” He said a founder recently pitched him an exciting product, but when asked how long it would take someone else to build the same tool, the entrepreneur said “two weeks.”
Hudson’s interest in crypto reflects what’s happening inside of every generalist firm right now: Are VCs backing net new startups, or are they letting their existing portfolios lead them to AI, either through seemingly magical pivots or via a shared love and validation for low-flying AI companies in the space?
For example, Jason Lemkin says he hasn’t yet invested in a pure-play AI startup. “I’m not sure there is a rush, but I could be wrong,” he said. Most of the investor’s portfolio companies are adding an AI component to their businesses. Then there is Sapphire’s Cathy Guo, who invests in late-stage startups, allowing her to take time to make her investment decisions. During a recent conversation, she described the “arms race” between big companies launching massive products and startups integrating AI to differentiate.