Artificial Intelligence is the shiny new thing venture capitalists are throwing money at—leaving once red-hot crypto projects flailing for funding.
Mysten Labs co-founder and CEO Evan Cheng said this shift is due to the ability of AI products and applications to cater to a broader audience while the crypto industry continues to focuses on itself.
“Multidisciplinary venture capitalists are increasingly turning their attention to artificial intelligence investments, driven by the technology’s proven value to consumers,” Cheng said, contrasting the explosion in artificial intelligence with that of cryptocurrency since 2017.
“ChatGPT came out, and [developers] are building products and applications for consumers and for developers—widespread, large-scale use cases are immediately possible," he observed. "In crypto, the industry has been building products for crypto people.”
Founded in 2021, Mysten Labs offers a tech infrastructure platform dedicated to the development and adoption of Web3 projects and boasts a leadership team that includes former Apple and Meta (then Facebook) scientists and engineers. In March of last year, Mysten Labs launched the Sui blockchain, which aims to provide fast transactions with low latency and cost.
Cheng says the growing interest in AI among VCs is evident in their activities on social media, particularly Twitter.
While Cheng did not give specific examples of the shift in investing, a $150 million investment in Character AI last month by long time crypto investor firm Andreessen Horowitz could be illustrative. Lightspeed Venture Partners also participated in a $101 million raise for Stability AI, the team behind A.I. text-to-image platform Stable Diffusion, in October 2022.
Even blockchain companies are investing in AI. In February, Tron founder Justin Sun said the company would launch a $100 million AI development fund.
Cheng believes that A.I., blockchain, and Web3 technologies are still complementary areas and can also be used in consumer products. Conversely, he expressed skepticism about incorporating A.I. as a core component, as it may not be necessary or suitable for all applications.
“One area we are very interested in, and where we see a lot of opportunities, is using AI technology in developer tools,” Cheng said. “We’ve already seen its value in smart contract auditing and code assistance, for example.
"While there are buzzword products combining AI and crypto, I’d be skeptical of their true utility," he continued. "However, when it comes to developer tools for smart contract developers, that’s definitely a fruitful area.”
VCs tend to follow trends and invest in compelling narratives, Cheng said, giving as an example the rise of decentralized finance (DeFi) and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). However, he stresses the importance of delivering tangible value in order to attract VC attention. If crypto projects can do so, he said they can garner the necessary investment to continue innovating and growing.
Cheng said showcasing innovative, consumer-focused products will reignite investment interest in the blockchain and crypto sectors, and he maintains a positive outlook on the future of the Web3, blockchain, and crypto sectors
“I believe there will be numerous big, powerful, and exciting products aimed at consumers, and that’s what truly excites me,” he said. “By presenting people with a few captivating, imaginative ideas, we can attract investments back to this space.”