AI dominates discussion at Web Summit Rio

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Marie Boran

AI was everywhere during the first day of Web Summit Rio 2024, with geopolitics, workplaces and startup ecosystems under the microscope.

Moving beyond the initial buzz of ChatGPT and other emerging generative AI technologies, today we saw analysis of AI innovation models around the world to preventing the brain drain of AI talent and avoiding another tech valuation bubble.

Global north v global south

Where does Brazil sit in the AI arms race? “We’re facing a huge global competition […] with very important players in this field,” said Eduardo Magrani, professor at Harvard BKC and lawyer with CCA Law Firm.

“But I would say that certain global south countries – such as Brazil – they’re in a privileged position by not being those potent players.”

Speaking about the perceived struggle between innovation and ethics when developing new AI technologies, Eduardo said that Brazil can look to “the innovative US model, the [rights-based] European model, or the [state-run] Chinese model” and “figure out the lessons learned from each region”.

The law professor went on to say that – as humankind enters a period of “more intense competition” for AI – cultural and ethical considerations are important pillars of innovation.

‘Forget investors – get paying customers instead,’ AI startups advised

Scan the daily tech and financial headlines and you’ll find “pretty eye-watering numbers when it comes to AI valuations”, says CGTN America anchor Elaine Reyes.

“I think what they’re getting wrong is […] focusing on valuation, not innovation,” said Michael Koch, co-founder and CEO of HubKonnect.

“And where innovation lies is not in the larger companies – the Alphabets of the world – where they’re gonna get large valuations. It’s in the small companies that are focused strictly on innovation, focusing on the technology to build real-world solutions that drive real-world results.”

The solution, says Michael, is not for small startups to go looking for the right investor, but to consider whether you even need one: “How about we don’t find an investor at all? How about we focus on the technology? The product?”

“Find and solve a real problem. Find the clients – get a full-time, paying customer – because until you have a client that’s going to pay full price for your products, you don’t even have a company yet.”

Is there anything AI can’t do? Yes, fix relationships

Noh founder and CEO Ana Zucato has said that, while AI can fix money management problems, it cannot solve the strain relationships experience under financial stress.

Ana told Web Summit Rio how Noh – a shared digital wallet – was born out of the stress of trying to work while also managing the household finances alongside her own partner.

“I moved in with my husband and we started sharing our house, and I was the CFO of the house, literally. So I was working all day and I had to pay all the bills and, at the end of the day, I was doing accounting, finances, taxes.

“Technology and AI can solve compliance, it can solve money movement, it can make everything easier and faster for us to move, but I don’t think it can solve human relations,” added the founder.

Brazil, supercomputers, and the race for position

Brazil is soon to get another supercomputer, with Nvidia’s drive towards microchip supremacy continuing. 

Nvidia’s Marcio Aguiar said the company plans to bring one on stream soon, telling Web Summit Rio attendees that Brazil is well positioned to take advantage of the growth in AI. 

“I hope in a few months that we should be announcing a major supercomputer here in Brazil,” said Marcio, who is executive director of enterprise sales for Latin America Nvidia Corporation. 

Marcio noted how Nvidia, like many corporations, faces hiring challenges in Brazil. The growth in opportunities in the AI sector can change this.

“Brazil has a vast number of students that graduate every year – engineering students – that are now more exposed to AI techniques than before.”

Day 2 of Web Summit Rio kicks off tomorrow! Follow all the action across our social channels using the #WebSummit Rio hashtag on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Main image of Center Stage on Day 1 of Web Summit Rio 2024: Lucas Jones/Web Summit (CC BY 2.0)

Photo of Center Stage at Web Summit Rio 2024.

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