With the OpenAI saga unfolding across the pond, the European tech community has been waiting for the latest updates as if a new “Succession” series was about to launch. In fact, events have at times resembled a Greek tragedy about the gods fighting atop Mount Olympus, while we mere mortals watch. With only a handful of large-scale AI startups, such as Germany’s Aleph Alpha and France’s Mistral, from which to draw any drama (London’s DeepMind was absorbed by Google Borg long ago), we’ve been clutching the popcorn. of corn and watching this unexpected episode of Silicon. Valley.
I polled a few enthusiastic tech observers, many of them venture capitalists, but almost none wanted to go on record, perhaps for fear of attracting the attention of some Valley AI god in full battle mode.
A UK-based investor said the drama will have positive effects on Europe’s nascent AI sector.
“This is great news for startups like Mistral, which can probably get some good employees and catch up with OpenAI. For AI companies based on OpenAI, this will not mean major changes in the short term, but it will mean that the market will become homogenized, especially if they lose direction and focus.”
Another noted that after OpenAI’s much-lauded Demo Day, it was seen as “the most extraordinary kind of business,” but now it looks like “an absolute shitshow.” They compared it to the WeWork debacle, “but at least there are no proper venture capitalists in this one since it’s a mix of nonprofits and for-profits and no one understands how it works.”
One European venture capitalist predicted that the developments will impact all term sheet negotiations: “I would expect founders to become more resistant to board control over CEO replacement and other similar terms. They will clearly ask themselves ‘if this can happen to Sam Altman, why should I assume it won’t happen to me?’”
On an even more practical level, many European applied AI startups rely heavily on OpenAI, which is (whatever they say) head and shoulders above most alternatives. The turmoil in OpenAI appears to be pushing the business into Microsoft’s hands and that could have some pretty big implications for companies that rely on the OpenAI platform… “especially if that company is competitive with or outside of the Microsoft ecosystem,” they noted.
“From a platform point of view, it’s a disaster,” said another investor. “Many companies are already working with OpenAI, this is like the API of Facebook, Twitter, etc. changing over and over again and possibly getting worse.”
There were also complaints about European regulation: “As we have seen with the harsh regulation coming from the EU level, the government will not save us. We need to have more AI champions at the local level. “There is still time, but it is not clear how much.”
Others were more optimistic that the upheaval gave European startups useful time: “Which is good for European next-gen AI startups as it gives them time to breathe and recalibrate before the next shock wave.” “.
Finally, a brave soul in the form of DN Capital co-founder and managing partner Steve Schlenker went public with his registration.
One of their concerns is that access to the world’s most successful LLMs will move away from average startups, “like those in Europe,” and toward startups and researchers, mostly local to the US. ., which approve some new initiatives yet to be carried out. -defined “selection” process, such as that defined by the controversial OpenAI board of directors.
Furthermore, if OpenAI’s best and brightest become full-time employees of a paid American mega-company like MSFT, “the AI movement’s ability to remain open to all at a fair price will rapidly diminish.”
Meanwhile, the good thing about all this chaos is that it is playing out publicly on social media, primarily Twitter/X. As one Warsaw-based venture capitalist told me: “It’s pretty exciting and unique that so much of this shitshow is happening publicly on Twitter. Not possible in Europe!