My AI startup was my main focus, so I left my Computer Science course. Even my dad agreed. – DNyuz

I dropped out of my computer science course to focus on my AI startup. Even my dad agreed.

This is an as-told-to essay based on an interview with Govind Gnanakumar, the cofounder of Automorphic. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I spent my senior year of high school thinking I’d study computer science, philosophy, and linguistics in college.

That last year of high school was a pretty exciting time where I essentially had infinite leeway to explore my interest in computer science. In my spare time, I played around, built, and learned a great deal. In essence, I became accustomed to moving quickly.

I ended up enrolling in Georgia Tech with plans to major in computer science. When I actually got there, though, I was pretty surprised by the slow pace of learning.

I don’t think that school is not valuable. It’s a great way to structure your life.

But after you get used to it, you may feel a bit stifled at school . You start to question whether you’re really getting enough value from it. Computer science, especially, is something you can learn anywhere. Computer science doesn’t require you to be a nun-like academic. You don’t need to be a cloistered nun in academia.

I didn’t think I got much out of classes. I stopped attending classes. It all sort of reinforced itself.

At the same time, my friends and I were also building a bunch of things outside of class that were much more interesting.

AI is moving fast and that’s exactly what our startup is about

I ended up applying f0r the winter intake for startup accelerator Y Combinator with two other Georgia Tech students — Mahesh Natamai, my randomly assigned roommate, and Maaher Gandhi, another student I met at a food stall on campus. It was a lucky coincidence that we met. There are many smart and talented people at Georgia Tech but very few are entrepreneurs.

Our first project was to index your data from all your apps. It was a compelling project, but we didn’t articulate it well enough, and we didn’t get accepted.

Our next attempt was a success.

The startup we’re building now is called Automorphic, and our goal is to help developers iterate and improve custom language models cheaply and efficiently.

Right now, people are using these huge models like GPT-4 that contain trillions of parameters. We imagine, however, that in the future people will be interested in running smaller, more specific models.

There are a couple of barriers. The first is that there is a lot of dark arts knowledge around how you train and fine-tune models. Your average JavaScript developer usually doesn’t have an understanding of what’s happening at the bleeding edge. We stay up to date by keeping track of the latest research and making it accessible. Our goal is to reduce this time from months or weeks to just a few days.

If I was in pursuit of things moving faster and faster as a freshman at Georgia Tech, I’d say that now, I’m in the best possible place.

“Y Combinator is a good enough proxy for a degree”

Once we got accepted to Y Combinator in May, I had a discussion with my dad. He knew that I had a passion for what I and my cofounders were building.

He even said “if I were you I’d go build your own startup.”

And honestly, Y Combinator is a good enough proxy for a degree. Y Combinator is one of the places where you will find more talent than any other college.

I told him I would be taking a leave from Georgia Tech. I don’t have plans to go back, though, so it’s safe to say I’m an official dropout.

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