Derek Distenfield Speaks at MIPT

This article is based on a speech given by Derek Distenfield at MIPT during AI Week in August 2019.

Many of the major challenges faced throughout the world today can be solved with innovation in artificial intelligence.

Innovation is simply the product of technology and execution. However, in today’s world the resources to carry out true innovation in AI are unevenly distributed. No single startup, institution, or even country can address and leverage the full impact of AI. Instead, we must find a way to build apolitical entrepreneurial bridges so that AI’s best and brightest from around the world can collaborate.

This is precisely why Gary and I started GSD Venture Studios. We build bridges for top artificial intelligence companies from Eastern Europe and Russia and give them the tools, knowledge, and network they need to #GoGlobal.

GSD is the only venture studio that is equally at home in both Russia and Silicon Valley. We are attracted to Russia's top academic talent and technology but know that nothing can replace Silicon Valley’s network of connected professionals and thought leaders.

Additionally, entrepreneurship is a difficult profession, and study after study has shown the importance of being bold and resilient. We look for entrepreneurs who have the grit and determination necessary to take their Russian ventures to a global level. These are the teams we are passionate about helping.

We travel the world inviting resilient teams to establish partnerships that ensure organizations grow the right way, without games or gimmicks. Unlike traditional investors, we take senior operational (often co-founder) roles in these companies, capitalizing on our trusted reputation, experiences, and network to drive explosive growth.

I have been involved in startups on both coasts of the United States for longer than the word "startup" has existed, and I have traveled the world extensively. I can tell you that Russian entrepreneurs are as bold and resilient as they come.

I define being bold as embracing ambiguity and failure as steps towards greater knowledge. Gary pivoted two times, and many other unicorns have pivoted from failure as well (YouTube, Slack, Yelp, Instagram, Twitter, and Paypal, just to name a few).

This is why GSD Venture Studios will always bet on entrepreneurs, not ideas alone, similar to the way colleges bet on scientists to conduct multiple experiments, even if the first one fails. In both science and entrepreneurship, the most important factor is the fortitude to never give up.

One such entrepreneur is GSD advisor David Yang. The work he has done with his global content IQ company ABBYY humbles and inspires me daily. I hope one day to have just a small portion of the knowledge that David already has.

As we continue to build GSD Venture Studios, it is my hope that we will also continue to lead the movement that is building bridges, not walls. Cross-cultural collaboration creates opportunities for all startups, regardless of their countries of origin, to have the amazing experiences that I have had thus far with bold, resilient entrepreneurs.