Sam Altman Forecasts More A.I. Investment for Y Combinator

Getty Images / Drew Angerer

Machine-learning startups are on the move to get serious funding from one of the most famous tech incubators in Silicon Valley.

On Thursday, Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator — the influential startup incubator that swaddled Airbnb, Dropbox, and Reddit — published his first-annual letter to the YC community that included an unusual prediction.

We expect to fund many more machine learning-driven companies in the future. (I will generally avoid calling out trends in these letters, because I’ve noticed doing that produced unintended consequences, but this one is so obvious and so important that I’m happy to mention it).

Does this mean the famous incubator would be giving machine-learning driving start-ups a longer look this year?

“Sure!” Altman tells Inverse over email. “Though there are now a lot of autonomous driving companies, and we’re also very interested in new areas.”

Altman also noted in the letter the exit of Cruise, the Y Combinator startup acquired by General Motors for $1 billion in March 2016.

In January, Cruise Automation released video of one of its autonomous Chevy Bolts driving around San Francisco, showing the progress of the firm that started it all at YC. As major automakers are snapping up self-driving startups (see Ford’s investment in Argo AI) to develop autonomous driving tech for their cars, the prospect of a YC incubation period should be an attractive one, given Cruise’s success.

But Altman’s encouragement doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re about to see a ton of self-driving car startups at YC (although it’s possible). Machine-learning can be applied to all sorts of optimization and robotics tasks, so there is plenty of space in that world for a glut of startups. And if Altman feels like it’s an obvious trend, it looks like we’re going to have some fancy artificial intelligence tech coming out of YC in the future.

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