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“Not all ‘AI startups’ are AI startups,” experts debate as industry witness surge

The deployment of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) has continued to see an upward trajectory in the industry. 

Thanks to the recent multi-billion dollars investment by Microsoft in OpenAI, more startups and AI-themed products are emerging.

While many of these startups have subscribed to describe themselves as an AI company, some tech experts have disagreed at such naming,  considering the act as an abuse of the nomenclature.

Michael Jackson, a venture capitalist and partner at Multiple Capital, a VC with 30+ fund portfolios with investment in about 700 startups, led a crossfire discussion on LinkedIn, when he shared an image to debase the proponents of acclaimed AI startups.

The image, which was first shared by the CEO of ClaidAI, Sofiia Shvets, in a Tweet, merges two pictorials to expose what experts consider to be public deceit.

In the first pictorial, we saw a masked figure to represent newly emerging AI startups while the other revealed how the said startup was only routing API calls through established AI companies.

The post has generated mixed reactions from fellow tech experts, with some refuting the claim.

See post below:

See some reactions:

Vitaly Golomb, a Mobility and Tech Investment Banker and Investor, said:

“Funny but wrong. There will be AI infrastructure, middleware, and applications. Companies don’t need to build the entire stack on their own. Companies that use AWS are indeed “cloud solutions.” OpenAI wants to be the AWS of AI/ML.”

Magnus Falch, Co-founder, Bamboo Solution AS, said:

“Unless you’ve got a solid signed agreement with the upstream infrastructure provider in a case like this you do not have a saleable product, you have a proof of concept at best.”

Martin Bryant, Founder, PreSeed Now, said:

“Lots of replies to this are saying ‘who cares about being built on GPT-3 API calls if it’s a useful product?’ but just like the social media startups that used to build on top of Facebook or Twitter, your future is almost entirely in the hands of a third party, and that makes investors’ eyes twitch uncontrollably.”

Phillip Kopp, Co-founder, Connectric Networks, said:

“Says all the SI’s built on Microsoft and the heavily funded high growth startups based on Salesforce and the ooooopss dead projects built on overnight sunsets by Google and FB. Hard to say where OpenAI will go but given the $10b Msft investment it seems likely won’t be going anywhere soon… final analysis. Seems like yes, they are fact check approved. Services built on AI platforms really are AI startups!”

Ethan Anthony, founder of, said:

“Phillip Kopp So you’re suggesting that because Microsoft has invested heavily in ChatGPT that it somehow legitimizes companies that brand themselves AI companies, simply by building on top of ChatGPT… I strongly disagree, but that’s not super relevant. My understanding is that the OP wanted to drive home the fact that being an “AI company” involves more than simply making API calls to ChatGPT. The point of focus is about what being an “AI company means”. Even with ChatGPT, OpenAI, GPT-3/4 et al, there’s a level of understanding required to get an effective outcome. 

“In all honesty, to properly leverage ChatGPT at this point, there should be fact checking and causal models involved. Obviously that term “AI Company” is going to be bastardized in the coming months, but that’s the net effect of trend chasing. So maybe true AI companies that have the requisite talent on deck should refer to themselves as something completely different. Anyway, the point is it’s cool to call yourself an AI company, and ChatGPT has made it possible for people with little to no knowledge of AI/ML to throw around the term. 

“So it’s not about which platform people are building on top of. It’s more about the forthcoming bastardization of AI.”

Ridwan Adelaja
Ridwan Adelaja
Ridwan Adelaja is a senior editor and tech venture analyst with experience in PR and Advertising for corporate companies and African startups. He runs commentary on startup news and developments across Africa. His works can be found on Ventures Africa, Nairametrics, Ripples Nigeria, QuickNews Africa, Arbiterz, amongst others. He could be reached via +2348025300029 or


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