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Digigram | November 2023

In this edition of Digigram:

#1: One Year of ChatGPT – What Have We Learned? – In the whirlwind year since its inception, ChatGPT has dazzled with its conversational and creative prowess, while also contending with the inevitable growing pains of misinterpretations (plus some puzzling weekend CEO-firing entertainment, re-hiring by the biggest investor & customer, followed by employee revolt, followed by the board getting fired and re-hiring of the same CEO under a new board, which now includes the biggest investor and customer…) and the learning curve associated with scaling a complex tech business. Yet, the most challenging hurdles have emerged from ethical and regulatory concerns over misinformation, privacy, and potential misuse, revealing the complex tapestry of how we might integrate AI into society. As we reflect on the groundbreaking journey of ChatGPT, one question looms: What comes next for AI, and how will we balance innovation and responsibility on the path forward?

#2: USA Launching Pad’s Fall 2023 Cohort – Two pioneering companies, Hypt and Flowit are in San Francisco as a part of their USA Launching Pad to build their sales in the USA. We interviewed the founders: What lessons have they learned about penetrating the U.S. market? Read for a candid look at their Silicon Valley journey and what it spells for the future of their global business expansion.

#3: A More Sustainable Shopping Season – As the holiday season approaches, the world faces a pressing dilemma: how to handle the surge in online shopping without exacerbating climate and social impacts: Packaging, waste, carbon-spewing delivery vehicles, and stretching the already stretched-thin labor force to the breaking point? The search for sustainable solutions is more urgent than ever. Could this year’s season be different? Could cutting-edge technologies not only streamline our holiday logistics but also gift us a greener future?

Till soon, Gert

Top of the Month 

Connected Life is back! My entrepreneurship class is on at UC Berkeley again. Fifty students from all five continents (yes: Welcome Australia!) have formed seven teams to tackle big problems such as increasing traffic safety, staying hydrated, helping families deal with tragedies, making data science accessible, compressing AI models, and warning of excessive drinking. “Tensor Zipper” won the class with their AI model compression solution that makes AI run faster and on smaller devices such as IOT and edge devices. They will pitch against the other best teams of UC Berkeley on Friday, December 8, from 9 am. Let me know if you’d like to come and support.

(Connected Life Class of 2023 with French automotive supplier VALEO discussing connected cars)

Flop of the Month

WeWork crashed again…. What was once considered a shining star in the U.S. startup scene, valued at $47 billion. Then, after a failed IPO in 2019, valued at $10 billion. Just this month, they’ve now filed for bankruptcy.

What went wrong?

Well, a lot of things. For one, their business model of renting and subletting large properties led to substantial losses. After the IPO failure,  investors were spooked by the company’s massive losses and concerns over CEO Adam Neumann’s leadership and governance. He was eventually ousted after years of pursuit of rapid growth over profitability.

And then, if that wasn’t a perfect storm enough – COVID-19 hit and nobody was working in office spaces anymore. Cut to today, and WeWork is struggling under $13.3 billion in long-term lease obligations. The bankruptcy filing is part of a strategy to restructure its debt, with 92% of its lenders agreeing to convert their secured debt into equity, reducing about $3 billion in debt.

WeWork’s story is a classic case of a startup that grew too fast without a sustainable path to profitability, coupled with leadership and governance issues, making it a noteworthy “flop of the month.”

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