The list of investors in an artificial intelligence company in the San Francisco Bay area in the United States reads like the who’s who of Silicon Valley. Vicarious counts Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Tesla founder Elon Musk, Amazon founder Jeff Bezoz and Sun Microsystems founder Vinod Khosla among its top investors.
Vicarious has an Indian connection in its co-founder Dileep George, who haila from Thodupuzha in Idukki district of Kerala.
The IITian teamed up with Scott Phoenix in 2010 to create a company that would eventually challenge the dominant technologies in the field of artificial intelligence.George said that he was fascinated with artificial intelligence even before the term started flooding the news pages. He wants his company to launch “perfect humane robots” who can cook our favourite dishes without any prior experience.George’s career is a model for wannabe tech entrepreneurs.
Karimannur to Stanford, the e-link
He went to the St Joseph’s High School at Karimannur near Thodupuzha and later to the Model Technical Higher Secondary School at Kaloor in Ernakulam. George learned about the IIT from his mother, a school teacher. He eventually landed in IIT Bombay. He joined the civil branch and later managed to shift to his favourite subject, electrical & electronics, on the basis of marks.
First computer for $400
George had set his eyes on higher studies abroad but he had to join a technology company in Bengaluru to raise funds to pursue his dream. After three years he flew to the United States.He joined a technology company in San Francisco. After a couple of months, he enrolled in the Stanford University and soon found himself in the company of brilliant minds. About 95 per cent of his classmates had scored cent per cent and about 20 per cent of them had been trying to score extra credits. George was attracted to studies about the functioning of brain. He delved into neuro science, psychology and machine learning. The company he found along with Jeff Hawkins, the founder of Palm Computing, was one of the pioneers in artificial intelligence.
Vicarious - the beginning
George eventually left Numenta to explore his interests. He teamed up with Scott Phoenix, an alumnus of Pennsylvania University, to set up Vicarious.
The duo started out in a humble way. They wanted to raise funds by creating iPhone apps but Paypal founder Peter Thiel promised the funds because he could see the potential of the new company.Simply put, Vicarious teaches robots some common sense, like keeping a distance from an opening door. Vicarious is all about general intelligence.
Captcha goes capote!
The company’s first breakthrough came when it exposed the fallibility of Captcha, a computer programme designed to distinguish between human and machine input. George and team successfully proved that even machines can read Captcha codes.George and Phoenix were only two years into their enterprise when they received an invitation from Zuckerberg. They found themselves surrounded by Facebook’s artificial intelligence team.
After the meeting, Zuckerberg offered to invest in the company’s second round of funding. Zuckerberg even recommended the duo to meet Musk. Soon the company received another big investor. Bezoz invested in the company in the Sun Valley Conference in 2013.
Google’s DeepMind challenged
Vicarious hit the headlines again when it decided to take on Google. The tech giant’s artificial intelligence company, Deep Minds, had claimed that a machine could play and win the popular video game, Breakout. Vicarious proved that it could raise enough obstacles to prevent the machine win the game. The new programme seemed foolproof. George has a set of success mantras which he does not mind sharing with up-and-coming entrepreneurs. Excel in Python, a programming language, go to the basics beyond the application level, go through the research papers on artificial intelligence and make yourself familiar with recent approaches in the field.George said that he also owed his success to his knowledge in brain research. He counsels newcomers to view everything critically rather than blindly following the current fad.
Some major investors in Vicarious
Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook CEO
Elon Musk – Tesla, SpaceX founder
Jeff Bezos – Amazon CEO
Marc Benioff – Salesforce CEO
Dustin Moskovitz – Facebook cofounder
Jerry Young – Yahoo cofounder
Ashton Kutcher – Hollywood actor
Peter Thiel – PayPal founder
Vinod Khosla – Sun Microsystems founder
Rishad Premji – Son of Wipro founder Azim Premji
Janus Friis – Skype founder
Adam D’Angelo – Quora founder
Aaron Winsor Levie – Cloud company Box founder
Peter Diamandis – X Prize founder
Alexis Kerry Ohanian – Reddit founder