I see the world today where only 800 million people out of 8 billion people have a rich lifestyle. It is rich in transportation, rich in housing, rich in education, rich in access to health care services, rich in entertainment, I could go on, rich in many ways.
All 8 billion people want this rich lifestyle. And if we did it the old way, we would destroy the planet. We wouldn’t have enough steel. We wouldn’t have enough cement or copper or enough doctors or oncologists or enough structural engineers. Choose any of them to multiply them all by 10X—that’s one thousand percent. But with innovation, all of this is possible.
The speaker of this excerpt is the legendary American businessman and entrepreneur, Vinod Khosla, founder and head of the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Khosla Ventures. Last month I had the opportunity to virtually interview Khosla for a live audience of around 450 entrepreneurs from Singapore and the surrounding region, while the online audience was global and in the thousands.
Khosla’s reputation in tech startup circles only requires the name “Vinod” – his success spans four decades. In 1982, the American immigrant born in Pune, India, and three others started Sun Microsystems, which pioneered networked computing. Khosla then switched to investing. Early win: Juniper Networks in 1996 and now a $5.6 billion revenue company. Forbes pegs Khosla’s current net worth at $6.4 billion (end of November). His optimism is refreshing: “I’m absolutely convinced that the crises we’ve had will end up being the best 25 years for innovators and entrepreneurs.”
Khosla elaborates: “First, the two most unfortunate events of the last two years, Ukraine and Covid-19, have set in motion transitions that are huge opportunities for innovators. The invasion of Ukraine, in my view, started an energy transition that was barely moving, something that people knew we had to do, but that everyone was reluctant to do. And that has changed dramatically… Covid-19 with its lockdowns in China has convinced the world that we need to move the supply chain out of China, not completely, but not to be dependent on a single source. This will again be a huge opportunity for innovators … the third leg of the stool is breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, which has been pretty obvious to me over the last five years when we’ve invested in [the company] OpenAI.”
What accounts for the big acceleration in AI right now, I ask? Khosla replied that he invited a 2017 paper from Google Attention is all you need described a new computational model called the transformer that radically improved artificial intelligence, which was further enhanced by advances in computing power. “These two technical factors have led to a rapid increase in capabilities, frankly, that has surprised even me,” says Khosla.
As artificial intelligence becomes increasingly ubiquitous, cheap and powerful, humanity will reap dramatic benefits, he says. “Well, let’s see the world in the future. I believe the expertise will be free. What does this mean? I think every person on the planet can have a 24/7 primary care doctor almost for free. Every child on the planet can have a personal tutor that can be almost free,” predicts Khosla, adding that he believes there will be 1 billion bipedal robots in the next 25 years that will replace humans in most “unwanted jobs” such as work. on an assembly line “doing one thing for eight hours a day for 30 years straight.”
I then asked Khosla if today’s entrepreneurs are different from those he funded in the past. He felt that entrepreneurs are more ambitious today. The world’s challenges and opportunities are much greater today, he notes, and only entrepreneurs will solve these problems. He described how all “big innovation” has always come from startups, not big companies – biotech was pioneered by Bob Swanson at Genentech, and the EV revolution was sparked by Elon Musk at Tesla. “In the 40 years I’ve been watching, no major innovation has ever come from any major company,” he says.
We concluded our discussion with Khosla putting the onus on the entrepreneurs in the audience to innovate: “A much better world can only happen if entrepreneurs make it happen.” Double click on it.