Building With Startups Leading The AI-Based Transformation

Scenes from Generative SF, Lightspeed's AI Meetup event series, held on August 24, 2023 at our San Francisco office.

Truly transformative technologies build new markets, upend existing ones, and impact every aspect of how we live, work, and play. At Lightspeed, we’ve been fortunate to have witnessed and participated in the rise of multiple transformative technologies over the last 25 years – from the rise of the internet to the rise of mobile, and now the rise of AI – specifically generative AI.

These transformative cycles are both powerful and chaotic at the same time. And yet, we’ve seen incredible Founders time and again connect the dots between the emergence of a technical innovation and the massive opportunity it unlocks. This happens up and down the stack, across sectors and geographies. A similar narrative is playing out in AI right now. We have been working with extraordinary companies building AI-native applications across sectors, such as enterprise SaaS, robotics, consumer, healthcare, and fintech, as well as engineering the underlying infrastructure to help develop and run AI-based applications. The following image highlights some of these amazing teams, and the sector they are building in. You can also read more about each teams’ ambitious vision for the future on our companies page.

Update: Lightspeed's AI/ML investments as of April 3, 2024

There’s no pre-determined sequence in which transformative technologies play out in the broader technology ecosystem. Often, things start with the emergence of one new infrastructure capability which catches the attention of developers, who then start building on top of it. This virtuous cycle of applications pushes the bounds of the infrastructure, accelerating further innovation, leading to ever more broader application of that technology within applications, and so on.

A similar cycle of infra and apps making each other better is playing out in AI. OpenAI’s introduction of transformer based models (GPT2/3) led to the emergence of applications in areas such as copywriting, blog writing etc. The increased developer interest led to continued innovation by OpenAI (GPT3/3.5/4, ChatGPT, Whisper) but also led to a Cambrian explosion of open source models from Meta, Stability, Mosaic, Databricks, and many more. This then feeds rapid incorporation of generative AI within applications, as well as the rise of generative AI operational, security, and observability platforms.

In subsequent articles, we’ll expand on the major markets outlined in the above map to outline the areas we are actively investing in, and the themes we are excited about. Our focus at Lightspeed is on having prepared minds, so we can connect the dots and dream together with our Founders. And we aren’t done yet – we’d love to talk to you if you have a strong point of view on how AI will create opportunities in this rapidly changing economy.

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Companies on our Portfolio Map (72 and counting) – updated as of April 3, 2024

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