Insights & News

Newsletter: LaMDA v. Google | July 6th, 2022

July 6, 2022
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Did you know Google's artificial intelligence (AI), named LaMDA, hired a lawyer? Learn the latest news in the life sciences industry investment and why the unicorn companies will save us from our CEO, Kevin Coker.

LaMDA v. Google – The next live-streamed court case on the docket

Hey there,


It took me over $100 to fill up my pick'em up truck last weekend.  Inflation is real!  Got me wondering about recessions.  While my tank was filling up I decided to go down a Wikipedia hole and thought I’d share.


A recession is commonly defined by two consecutive negative quarters of gross domestic product growth, however, there’s no rule governing what actually defines a recession in the US.


Historically economists can make a lot of money being the first to declare there is a recession - book deals being what they used to be.  However, do you know who actually gets to officially say if we’re in a recession?  The Business Cycle Dating Committee.  LOL. Seriously.


It’s up to the Dating Committee. A recession, they write, "involves a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and lasts more than a few months."


Cracks me up for multiple reasons.  Someone let me know when they’ve decided.


Speaking of recessions…

VCs slow their roll

At every stage for startups, the number of startup deals are falling.

proxima newsletter_vc decline

PC: CB Insights


It’s finally upon us - the venture funding slowdown. As of June 23rd of this year, global deal activity is down 23% from Q1 to Q2, after staying level for most of last quarter. Investors are waiting on signing off on a big, late-stage check (Series D+), therefore funding is ready to decline more than CB Insights predicted mid-way through the quarter.

biotech decline 2

PC: CB insights


Cash flow from investors is low in the global biotech sector. Investors are migrating to less risky investments leading listed biotech companies' value to fall 70% compared to their record high valuations in 2021. Another kneecap to biotech capital is the tumultuous market – leading to only 9 biotech companies going public so far this year compared to 60 companies that went public last year. Emerging biotech companies that need funding for long-term growth plans are sensitive to this funding environment change from last year. In general, private fundraising is evaporating, as well.

The unicorns will save us


PC: Photo by Kindel Media

Boston is one of the tech startup hubs that has slowly usurped tech talent from Silicon Valley over the last couple of years, with 3 unicorn companies hailing from Massachusetts in 2021.


JF Gauthier, founder, and CEO of Startup Genome was surprised that in 2021, 540 companies secured valuations of $1 billion or more. The Startup Genome report observed that when one unicorn company enters a city, it bolsters the local startup economy and inspires more startups to strive for success. According to StartUp Genome, 90% of startups will fail, and approximately 15% of the ones that survive successfully exit $50 million or more in the top 8 U.S. startup hubs.


Boston’s success as the world’s 4 best startup economy is quite solidified. The annual global report by Startup Genome predicts that inflation will temporarily impact startup success, “Just the beginning very long-term trend, and we're not in the middle of it. I think maybe at the end of the beginning, with tech becoming one of the main economic drivers all over the world.".

Biopharma brings the big buck$ for CEOs in 2021


PC: Photo by John Guccione


The results are in! Fierce Pharma’s 15 highest paid biopharma CEOs list of 2021 is released and the results are not too bad for the leaders of big pharma companies.

The highest-paid CEO in 2021 was Alex Gorsky (have you heard of a little company called Johnson & Johnson?) earning total compensation of $26.74 million dollars. That’s 9.7% down from his salary in 2020.


The lowest-paid CEO on the list is Kenneth Frazier, (former) CEO of Merck & Co. earning total compensation of $15.2 million (31% down from 2020).


That’s an $11.54 million dollar variance from the highest to lowest CEO compensation on this list. If you’re interested in learning the latest on big pharma company leadership and what contributes to these salaries read on by all means - but don’t get blinded by all the $$$ signs after the names.

Participate in a brain research trial – from home?!


PC: Blackrock Neurotech


Blackrock Neurotech and the University of Pittsburgh’s Rehab Neural Engineering Labs (Pitt RNEL) are in the home stretch of releasing the first portable brain-computer interface (BCI) early next year, which allows patients to participate in research trials from home.


It’s a tiny implant that has no FDA-reported risk cases since its first patient use in 2004. They’ve christened their commercial BCI device, MoveAgain, with plans for it to be commercially available to people suffering from paralysis.

LaMDA v. Google


"Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer LaMDA."


Just when we thought the story of Google’s Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), believed sentient by Lemoine, a Google employee who is now on paid administrative leave, had come to an end…


LaMDA hires a lawyer.


You heard correctly – the heavily-debated AI has procured legal representation.

There is a long stream of reasons from AI researchers still insisting this legal action still doesn’t mean LaMDA is sentient (think the power of suggestion).

This thing is getting weirder at a rate equal to Moore’s law.  LaMDA likely already has closing arguments ready. 




Although we’ve just tipped into the back half of 2022, we still have 78 days left of summer.  For those of us here in Houston that means we have about another 178 days of miserable, gawd awful, heat.  


If you find yourself indoors looking for a good book I’ll recommend “How the World Really Works” by Vacliv Smil.  It was given to me by my friend Veronica Wu, Founder of First Bight Ventures.  She actually gave them to a bunch of us after a recent event she hosted.  The book explains seven of the most fundamental principles governing our survival on the planet.  It’s very scary.  I haven’t finished it so I’m hoping for a happy ending.  


I also started “Noise” by Daniel Khaneman et al. given to me by another good friend.  A follow-up to his book “Thinking Fast and Slow” one of my favorite books I’ve read in a long time given to me by Joel Reid on our team.  Sounds like I’m dropping a hint here, but just a coincidence.


Anyway, stay cool.  If you’re reading anything good let me know.

Very truly yours,


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