20VC: Benchmark’s Sarah Tavel on Are Foundation Models Commoditising | Why Frontier Models Will Be Closed Source | Why the Value is in the Application Layer | The Future of AI is in “Selling the Work” Not the Tools

Posted on 6th May 2024 by Harry

Sarah Tavel is a General Partner @ Benchmark, one of the most successful and renowned venture firms in the world. At Benchmark, Sarah has led rounds in Chainalysis, Hipcamp, Medely, Rekki, Glide, Cambly and more. Prior to Benchmark, Sarah was a Partner at Greylock Partners. Before Greylock, Sarah was the first 30 employees at Pinterest. Sarah joined Pinterest in 2012 after co-leading the Series A investment while at Bessemer Venture Partners.

In Today’s Episode with Sarah Tavel We Discuss:

1. Becoming a GP at The Most Renowned Firm in Venture:

  • How did the process of Sarah joining Benchmark start? How did it progress? What was it that convinced her to leave Greylock and join Benchmark?
  • What does Sarah believe makes Peter Fenton the world-class investor that he is?
  • What does Sarah know now that she wishes she had known when she started in venture?

2. Foundation Models: Is it All Going to Zero:

  • Will foundation models be commoditised?
  • Will 99% of the funding going to foundation models go to 0?
  • How does Sarah view the future of open vs closed source?
  • Why does Sarah believe that all frontier models of the future will be closed-source?
  • Why does the business model of foundation models remind Sarah of the food delivery business?

3. Application Layer: Where $BN Companies Will Be Built:

  • Why does Sarah believe that sustainable value-creating companies will be in the application layer?
  • How does Sarah determine between a wrapper on top of ChatGPT and true product value?
  • Are enterprises opening real budgets for AI today or are we still in experimental budgets?
  • How does Sarah think about how AI companies differentiate when there are so many in the same space of customer service, sales team support etc etc?
  • Why does Sarah believe that it is rational to pay more for these companies when investing in them?
  • What does Sarah mean when she says the future is “selling the work and not the tools”?

4. Inside Benchmark: How the Best Do Venture:

  • What is the one rule that Benchmark is willing to break when doing a deal?
  • Why do Benchmark aim to be the best recruitment firm in the world?
  • Why do Benchmark not agree with the concept of reserves?
  • In a case where Benchmark have lost, why did they lose? How did they change their approach?

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