Ryan Weber, Great North RESIZED

Artificial intelligence is bringing incredible breakthroughs in automation and other applications, according to Ryan Weber, managing partner and co-founder of Great North Labs, a Minnesota-based venture capital fund focused on helping tech startups in the Upper Midwest. Weber is a panelist for the artificial intelligence/data analytics module at the Minnesota Venture Conference on Nov. 7, 2018.

More info: MnVenture.org or register now.

In this Q&A, Weber provides insight on AI/data analytics for investors: 

Q. What piques your interest in startups or innovators in AI/ Data Analytics? What has wowed you?
The advances in AI, coupled with digital manufacturing, are causing what some call a “Robotics Cambrian Explosion.”
Computing power alone is not driving breakthroughs in AI and Data Analytics. Advances in algorithms that power machine learning are leading to new applications, through loose inspiration based on how the brain operates. Improvements in deep learning have led to computer vision breakthroughs, as AI-powered image recognition has gone well beyond human capabilities in only the past 5 years.

These breakthroughs were necessary for autonomous applications such as self-driving cars but also for regional innovations in agriculture. In North Dakota, Great North Labs Advisor Greg Tehven is leading a group’s application to fund an initiative to create the first fully autonomous farm by 2025 called the Grand Farm Initiative. Twin Cities startups Rowbot, Cohereum, and Rover Robotics are all likely potential applications that could make this North Dakota vision a reality. Rowbot and Rover Robotics are building robotic platforms that can serve the Ag market nicely.

Q. Since so much of innovation in AI/Data Analytics has been with big tech corporations, in what areas do you think small startups can compete?
The applications using these technologies are often overlooked by the big companies and quickly become accessible to the fast and nimble startups through cloud infrastructure. One of our region’s strengths is our great economic diversity, and these technologies can be applied in just about every industry.

Most big companies still struggle with adaptable business planning methods/innovation so a startup with industry insights can build and scale commercial applications quite a bit faster, leading to the big corporations becoming commercial partners, strategic investors, and of course logical acquirers instead of the ones leading the charge in the creation of the new innovations.

Q. What are the two best things that could happen at the Minnesota Venture Conference?
Large corporate partners in our region build networks with startup community members, leading to more investment and commercial partnerships.

Q. What app do you use that’s just for fun?
I love the SU App by Singularity University. I’ve been enjoying content curated by Singularity and others around exponential technologies. Now I’m a Co-Ambassador for the SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter so I better enjoy it!

More info: MnVenture.org