These days, my Twitter feed is dominated by two things: a slew of AI-generated images of the people I follow, courtesy of Lensa.aiand screenshots of elaborate responses produced by the new buzzy AI chatbot, ChatGPT, born from the research startup OpenAI. While it’s great fun to marvel at how thoughtful and weirdly human responses to various ChatGPT-connected prompts are, such tools have enormous potential to transform the way businesses work, an investor told me. venture capital over coffee last week.
Brian Ascher, a partner at famed venture capital firm Venrock, told me he thinks “every department” of a company “could eventually use it.” As an investor, Ascher focuses on AI/ML (artificial intelligence and machine learning), among other things, and has already made bets on several AI companies, such as 6sense, which focuses on AI for revenue teams, and Socrates.ai, which caters to HR.
Although there has been a lot of ink about whether ChatGPT could become the next Google or at least ask a threat to the search engine, what’s less hypothetical is that ChatGPT is already being used by one of Ascher’s portfolio companies, 6sense, for sales reps to automate emails to prospects, I was told -he says.
The “big opportunity” for AI at large, according to Ascher, “is to take an application like Salesforce, which is wonderful, and everyone needs it, but it’s a lot of work. It’s not a no secret that sales people are complaining about it because they have to enter the data,” says Ascher “When this all becomes more automated and you just get the value from the software with a lot less input work, then that changes deal.” Concretely, it’s about “looking for patterns in huge datasets, incorporating learning loops to improve over time. There are already a bunch of companies trying monitor sales calls, email communications, and Zoom sessions to extract key takeaways” in Selling power, he notes. “The AI definitely does the heavy lifting by distilling a long exchange into the most relevant sentences and data points.”
Besides sales, Ascher says ChatGPT and similar generative AI technology could overhaul the often wonky and outdated HR department or even parts of IT. He argues that employee handbooks are “a disaster” and lack information (e.g. requiring vaccine reminders). “An AI could be the interface, like when you’re on a shopping site, and they say, ‘Can I help you?’ new laptop,” he notes. only barriers to supporting employees so they can do their day-to-day jobs, and we should automate as much as possible,” Ascher says. ‘Generative AI’
Given all the buzz, it’s no surprise that OpenAI seems to be a hot commodity in the VC space. Ascher told me that ChatGPT is a hot topic in his AI circles (“people were blown away,” he says). Meanwhile, startup OpenAI, which was previously a nonprofit whose founders include Elon Musk and ex-Y Combinator Sam Altman, and became a capped-profit entity in 2019, is reportedly in talks to raise more funds. Microsoft plowed $1 billion in the company three years ago.
Whether or not ChatGPT is destined to become the next Google or to automate a large part of the tasks of salespeople, one thing is certain: the technology is still new. When I asked Ascher if we were “still there” in terms of this technology’s ability to perform these HR and customer relations functions seamlessly, he replied that it was “pretty close”, around 80 % path. What’s more, as Fortune and other posts have noted, ChatGPT still occasionally spits Incorrect or incorrect answers, which could be detrimental to a company’s brand and to consumers.
“We have to worry about AI going too far,” Ascher says, but “when it comes to integrating the consumer internet and B2B [business-to-business] Internet applications, I don’t think that’s the problem.
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Jackson Fordyce curated the deals section of today’s newsletter.
– MoveEasya Columbus, Ohio-based home management platform and concierge service raised $7 million in Series A funding. modern companies led the round and was joined by Travelers.
– Forged Solution Group acquired Continental Forge, a Compton, CA-based forged and machined solutions provider for the military and commercial aerospace industries. Financial terms were not disclosed.
– MTY Food Group acquired Wetzel Pretzelsa Pasadena, Calif.-based pretzel snack franchisor from CenterOak Partners for $207 million.
– Box acquired Gorillas, a grocery delivery service based in Berlin, Germany. A deal values the company at $1.2 billion, according to Bloomberg.
– Competent agreed to acquire Integration, a Houston-based IT service management company. Financial terms were not disclosed.
– Cove Hill Partnersa Boston-based private equity firm, promoted Jane Levy Vance to the general manager.
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