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Exploring Tech’s Next Frontier with Andy Budd: From LLMs to Sustainability

June 27, 2024

Join us for a Q&A session with Andy Budd, a renowned design leader turned investor, advisor, and coach. As a Venture Partner at Seedcamp and a thought leader in the tech industry, Andy shares his insights on the latest technological trends, the challenges facing the tech world, and the ethical implications of AI. From the transformative potential of LLMs (Large Language Models) to the evolving landscape of remote work and the intersection of technology and sustainability, Andy provides a comprehensive overview of what lies ahead. Join us as we explore the future of tech innovation and leadership through Andy’s unique perspective.

What new technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the product development, marketing or tech world in the next 12 to 24 months?

Well, if you’re specifically asking about “new technologies” then the only real answer is LLMs. We’ve had an explosion in new products taking advantage of machine learning the past 12-18 months, and I see no sign of that trend abating. Investors might be starting to tire of industry vertical co-pilots. And companies which launched 18 months ago are starting to run into issues with accuracy and hallucinations. However much like the launch of smart-phones, while the first gen products were interesting (if a little bit obvious), it’s the third, forth and fifth gen apps which really made a dent. As such I think we’ll see a similar trend here, as we move away from super visible LLMs and a novelty feature, and towards LLMs powering the core experience almost in the background. And as with the smart phone revolution, I do think the launch of Apple Intelligence will help raise awareness and make visible AI use a more every day occurrence.

Reflecting on your experience, what major challenges do you anticipate product/growth/tech will face in the coming years? How do you think leaders should be preparing themselves and their teams to tackle these challenges?:

Hard to say what the big challenges will be, beyond figuring out how machine learning fits into each and every company’s product strategy (much as mobile did before that). We’ll have a bunch of early adopters who build out new, LLM powered version of the encumbrance, while more traditional companies will probably see how the field plays out for placing a solid bet. Of course LLMs create a number of new design challenges around communicating capabilities, limitations and trust. So I think it’s going to be an exciting time for design teams the next 18 months.

On a more broader business context, it does feel like we’re coming out of the slump we experienced the past 18 months. Interest rates are looking like they’re on the way down, while investment and hiring are starting to pick up. Hopefully a change of government will be received positively by the market, for the first few months at least. Especially if whomever is elected comes in on with a strong mandate for growth.

Considering recent advancements in AI, what are your thoughts on the ethical implications? From your perspective, what are the critical ethical challenges that need to be addressed as AI becomes more widespread?

I’ve taken several groups of engineers, designers, researchers and science-fiction authors on retreats to the Juvet Landscape Hotel in Norway (where Ex Machina was filmed) to discuss that very topic. As such we probably don’t have the space to discuss my thoughts on this in detail. However like all new technologies we have the opportunity to use AI in ways which enhance human creativity and agency, or strip them of it. So while it’s exciting for a few billionaires who grew up on a diet of Terminator movies to discuss the existential threat of GenAI, the singularity and the potential of enslavement of humanity by a super intelligence, I’m more concerned how we avoid baking the biases of society into our existing models, in order to prevent the very real ethical problems we’re seeing today;problems like black-box recruitment software, insurance software and sentencing software making life impacting decisions based on race, sex and gender.

How do you envision the integration of emerging technologies like VR or AR evolving in professional environments where you work?

I’ve seen folks hyping VR and AR for the last 40 years. This virtual or augmented nirvana always seems to be just round the corner, but we never seem to get there. Sure the Apple Vision is a cool bit of kit, but the few folks I know who have one haven’t used it for the past few months. As such it feels like a cool technology in search of a meaningful (and realistic) use case. There’s an ad on TV at the moment featuring a husband having trouble building a babies crib, and turning to an AR headset for help. If this is the best positioning multi-billion dollar companies with vested interests can come up with, I think we’re probably safe from AR/VR for the moment.

In your opinion, what is the next big opportunity for tech innovation that you feel is currently being overlooked or isn’t receiving enough attention?

As a designer at heart, I think design has been massively overlooked. Sure, we all have talented design teams. However most of them aren’t being put to good use. Instead companies hire designers and tell them what to do. I’m reminded by the story of Johnny Ives, who had been at Apple for several years before “Steve Jobs” discovered him and let him drive things. This led to 20 years of outstanding growth, and Apple moving from being a niche computing company to one of the wealthiest companies in the world. So I think founders should look for the Johnny Ives in their companies, and give them the space and autonomy to do great work.

From your own experience, how do you see the continuing evolution of remote work and its technologies impacting your own work-life balance?

I’m not sure I see it “continually evolving.” Instead I think we’ve hit a bit of a balance point. Some companies and individuals really like the flexibility of remote working, while others have pursued a back to the office policy post pandemic. Some companies want to focus on in person community and collaboration, while others love the idea that they can now hire the best people from anywhere in the world. I don’t personally believe that one approach is better than the other. They all have their trade offs. However I am glad that we have more choice in the market now.

Can you share a bold prediction about how you think technology and sustainability will intersect in the next ten years?

I’m not really in the market of making longer term predictions. I’ll that to the science fiction authors. However I do agree with William Gibson that to some extent “The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed.” As such, technology has already intersected with sustainability, both in positive and negative ways. What’s clear is that we can’t keep on polluting the planet, that fossil fuels will eventually run out, and that we’re on the brink of a green transition. The real question is whether there is enough political and business will to make that transition happen fast enough.

If you could implement changes to the way people work based on your own routines and practices, what specific adjustments would you make to improve productivity or well-being?

I mean I’m not really in the market of imposing my views and preferences on other people, so you might be confusing me with an authoritarian dictator. I mean how egotistical do you have to be to think that the way you do things is the right way and everybody should follow suit.

Reflecting on your own journey in your field, what is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is just starting out?

I honestly don’t think that reflecting on my journey would be that much help, as we’re in a fundamentally different environment today that when I was starting out. When I started out, we had already moved from my parents generation of a “job for life” to a “career for life.” However as somebody who has now held at least three careers (designer, CEO and Investor) I think w’re moving to a time of career fluidity, where people will be expected to switch careers every 6-8 years. Often as a result of tech disruption. As such my advice would be learn how to learn in order to avoid getting stuck down any career cul-de-sacs.

For instance I love design and designers. However I’m also aware how much of a wrecking ball AI might be to the industry. Design is more than just how something looks and feels. It’s how something works. However historically designers have been able to shape how something worked because they were the only people with the craft skills to shape how it looked. As we move to a world where these craft skills become increasingly automated, designers will need to lean more and more into product management, or find themselves even further relegated to the aesthetic. Creating design systems which are consumed by Engineers and PMs who no longer need somebody with Figma skills to bring their vision to life.

About:

Andy Budd, Venture Partner,  Seedcamp

Andy is a Design Leader turned investor, advisor and coach. He’s a Venture Partner at Seedcamp, one of the top ranked seed funds in Europe. He’s currently writing “The Growth Equation” to help startups land their first million in revenue and reach Product Market Fit.

Andy Budd‘ Turing Fest talk: The Growth Equation: 7 Essential Steps to Finding Product Market Fit

Well known UK design-leader-turned-VC Andy Budd outlines some of the common pitfalls which trip up early stage founders (and essentially anybody trying to get a new project off the ground) and what they can do about it. Andy will walk us through the 7 key factors which form the backbone of his equation and guide startup growth. He’ll also share 9 key tactics you can use to help find early customers, build a GTM engine, land your first million in revenue and find Product-Market Fit in the process. This talk is going to be essential listening to startup founders, product leaders and those with an entrepreneurial spirit.

View the 2024 agenda here.

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