Ozy Media and the Limits of “Pretend Until You Do It”


I don’t know about this particular company, but it happens very often. I can imagine a business plan that said, “In the short term, we’ll be paying people to do this task to create a training dataset so that we can train our machine learning algorithms. “

In fact, I just saw a company a few days ago where it was exactly the same structure. Only they did it the way I think was right. In their risk pitch they were very honest, they said, “Here is the current number of tasks that are accomplished on our platform each day, and here is the fraction of tasks that are accomplished by AI versus humans. . ” And you can see that the fraction is increasing. So there is a level of disclosure that can make this plan ethical.

In the start-ups you have invested in, or in your own businesses, are there examples where testing something that does not exist or painting a vision that you did not achieve was acceptable and necessary? to do ?

It is difficult to choose a specific example because in each start-up, it is intrinsic to the profession. Again, this is not deception. It’s about the fact that you are talking about the future and the future is always uncertain.

I’m going to give you an example. I was once fundraising for a startup, and we had a hockey stick graph on our field that showed how many clients we had and how much income we had. And I remember showing it to an investor who said, “This is amazing. Congratulations. What are the units on this graph, is it thousands or tens of thousands? And I’m like, “Oh, sorry sir, this is my mistake.” It’s the reals, it’s in the ones.

And this investor made us laugh from the room and never spoke to us again. But another investor looked at the exact same data, exactly the same chart, with the exact same warnings and disclosures and said, “I think something is going on here.”

You always ask people to extrapolate from a very limited data set into the future. And I would say the fact that you are doing that requires that you be very thorough and honest with people at this point because it is very easy to give them the wrong impression. It is very easy for them to feel cheated. And once you go down that road, lies and deceptions pile up.


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