- “The Datapreneurs” highlights the startup founders driving rapid innovation in AI.
- Written by the tech investor and former Snowflake CEO Bob Muglia, the book came out on June 13.
- Muglia says the tech industry will soon achieve artificial general intelligence, or humanlike AI.
Former Snowflake CEO Bob Muglia grew up watching “The Jetsons,” the 1960s cartoon that features a family living in a technology-fueled utopian future, complete with houses in the sky, flying cars, and robot housemaids.
In his new book, “The Datapreneurs: The Promise of AI and the Creators Building Our Future,” released June 13 and cowritten by Steve Hamm, Muglia suggests that given the rapid clip at which technology is developing, the near future might not look too different from his favorite childhood TV show.
A seasoned tech executive who once worked under Bill Gates at Microsoft, Muglia was the CEO of the fast-growing data-cloud company Snowflake until 2019. He left shortly before the company made its public-market debut. Since then, Muglia has become an angel investor, helping to fund at least nine early-stage data-and-analytics startups in the past three years, including Perplexity, Collagia, and Atlan. He also sits on the board of directors at RelationalAI.
“When I was a kid, I always wanted a Rosey,” Muglia said, referring to the Jetson family’s robot maid. “Rosey was such a great robot. She was a little sassy, but she got stuff done.”
Muglia predicts autonomous vehicles will become ubiquitous by the 2030s, followed by autonomous cargo ships, drone deliveries, and perhaps, eventually, household robots. All these advancements, robot maids included, would be fueled by artificial general intelligence, a computing system with the potential to be as intelligent as humans, Muglia told Insider in an interview ahead of his book launch.
Society, Muglia said, is on the brink of achieving artificial general intelligence, but it hinges on the power of data analytics, an area ripe with opportunity to innovate and improve. Now removed from the corporate life, Muglia has been eager to fuel that innovation with personal investments in the fledgling companies he thinks are the most promising.
“I want to focus on things that make a difference in data,” Muglia said, “and you know, frankly, are consistent with some of these ideas I have, one of which is that as the world begins to work with more and more types of data, it opens up opportunities to learn more and more about the world.”
In “The Datapreneurs,” Muglia set out to highlight some of the startup founders he thought were leading the charge in data analytics. Insider spoke with Muglia about his experience writing the book, what he looked for when investing in a startup, and the possibility of robots in the not-so-distant future. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
So tell me why you wanted to write this book.
Honestly, I thought I had something to say. Part of it was making people realize how important these different types of data are. You know, to me, knowledge is really data combined with analysis and insights.
We started working with text data decades ago. … And then text search became a thing, which enabled Google and, really, the internet. Now here we are, 20 years later, and it’s all language-based. In 18 to 24 months, they’re just going to be broad foundation models that are multimodal, handling visual and speech and audio and text.
People have to recognize that data is everywhere, and we’re now able to actually get value out of that for the first time. With these new AI capabilities, we’re adding the ability to actually have intelligence now on top of that.
What about when AI gets something wrong?
We’re starting to see answer bots now, and I think we’ll see those mature in the next six months or so. I think as we can provide these models with more knowledge in the form of current information, they will perform better. What we’re going to see develop over the next couple of years that’s going to have everyone very, very interested is what we’ll call an action bot, which is something that does something for you.
That sounds scary.
Here’s the thing, and tell me if you think this is scary or not — I actually think what’s happening is that over time, these twins are going to live beyond us, basically. I wrote about this a little in the book. I’m an old guy and not into social media, but my daughter and her friends — they’re in their 30s now — and certainly younger people, they’re recording their entire lives online. That’s all data for these AI assistants to do things on their behalf. We’re creating digital alter egos of ourselves, whether we know it or not.
What’s the benefit of that?
In the short run, the thing I want is something smart enough to know enough about me so I don’t have to be a calendar jockey. A lot of my career, I had an assistant, and now I no longer do.
I’d love an AI assistant that could help me and say, “Hey, here are the requests that have come through in the last day. How should I prioritize them?” or, “I know you work out on Monday mornings, Bob, so I didn’t schedule anything, but this person is in Israel, and the only time he can meet is at 9.”
That’s happening in the short run?
I think we’re 36 months away from most of that.
Why did you focus the book on entrepreneurs?
It’s sort of who I am. I’m a facilitator in getting things done. It’s really other people who are making things happen. I was on a call earlier with George Fraser and Benoit Dageville. Benoit built the underlying technology behind Snowflake. I helped guide it to market and built a team, but it was really the work of these great people, and I thought it’d be great to highlight people like them.
You’re now an investor in several early-stage AI and data-analytics startups. How do you decide when to write a check?
Of course, the first question is, “Is this interesting to me?” For example, one of the things I focused on as soon as I left Snowflake was this realization that there’s a lot of data out there in the form of documents and pictures and video that are not currently being worked with at the level they could be. We certainly didn’t work with that kind of data at Snowflake, at least not when I was there. Data inside images and videos is opaque to computers — really opaque to a tool like Snowflake. It was clear to me that you need to have human interaction with this.
When I saw that Collagia cofounder and CEO Roo Armande was trying to focus on building a tool that allows people to work with visual data, I immediately thought that was interesting. I’m confident that we’ll see these kinds of capabilities become more common in the next few years. I thought that was very interesting. We’re all going to have an AI twin. That’s one possibility I’ve already seen someone building.
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