Enterprise AI
March 13, 2024

AI’s Winners Will Be Those With The Best Data, Not The Best Algorithms, with Cory Janssen, Co-CEO at AltaML and Former Co-Founder of Investopedia

Cory Janssen, Co-CEO at AltaML, argues that in the commoditized AI landscape, access to unique industry data will determine the winners, not algorithms.
Written by Ankur Patel
This is a summary of an episode of Pioneers, an educational podcast on AI led by our founder. Join 2,000+ business leaders and AI enthusiasts and be the first to know when new episodes go live. Subscribe to our newsletter here.


  • The competitive landscape for AI is shifting away from a focus on algorithms and infrastructure and towards access to unique, high-quality data.
  • The commoditization of AI algorithms and infrastructure has made it easier for companies to get started but harder to maintain a competitive edge based on algorithms alone.
  • Industry-specific data holds immense potential for developing powerful, differentiated AI applications that drive real business value.
  • Acquiring and leveraging industry-specific data comes with challenges, such as the proprietary nature of datasets, data quality issues, and more.
  • Collaborations between data owners (industry domain experts) and AI providers can unlock the full potential of AI in specific sectors.

As AI technologies become more advanced and widely adopted, companies are racing to harness their potential to gain a competitive edge. From healthcare and finance to manufacturing and retail, AI is being applied across various industries to optimize processes, improve decision-making, and drive innovation.

In recent years, there has been a surge in investment in AI, with companies pouring billions of dollars into developing cutting-edge algorithms and infrastructure. AI and generative AI companies raised nearly $50B in 2023 alone. This investment has led to rapid advancements in AI capabilities, making it easier for companies to leverage AI to solve complex problems and drive business value.

But as the AI industry matures, the competitive landscape is shifting. While having access to state-of-the-art algorithms and infrastructure remains important, it is no longer the sole differentiator for success. As Cory Janssen, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of AltaML, points out in our podcast interview, it’s the data sets that hold the key to success and outsized advantages.

Access to unique, high-quality data will be the key differentiator for AI success, not algorithms. As AI algorithms become more commoditized and accessible, the competitive advantage will shift towards companies that possess clean, proprietary datasets tailored to their specific industries. These datasets, when combined with domain expertise and effective AI strategies, will enable companies to build powerful, differentiated AI applications that drive real business value.

In the following sections, we will explore this concept in more detail, examining the factors that contribute to the growing importance of data in the AI landscape and the strategies companies can adopt to capitalize on this trend.

But first, check out our full episode here:

The Commoditization of AI Algorithms and Infrastructure

In recent years, we’ve witnessed a significant shift towards the commoditization of AI algorithms and infrastructure. What was once the domain of a few tech giants and research institutions is now becoming increasingly accessible to a wider range of companies. This trend is driven by the open-source movement, which has made many cutting-edge AI algorithms freely available; and the rise of cloud computing, which has democratized access to powerful computing resources.

One of the key drivers of this commoditization is the growing availability of open-source AI frameworks and libraries. Projects like TensorFlow, PyTorch, and Keras have made it easier than ever for developers to build and deploy AI models without having to start from scratch. As Cory notes in our interview:

"Going back five or six years ago, it was like the wild west, with all these open-source tools... and then all of a sudden you wake up one day and you're like, 'Oh crap, Microsoft just threw a hundred engineers working on this for six months, and now my entire product is a feature.''

This highlights how quickly the AI landscape is evolving and how easily algorithmic advantages can be eroded.

Another major factor in the commoditization of AI is the role of hyperscalers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and Microsoft Azure. These cloud computing giants have made significant investments in AI infrastructure, offering a wide range of services and tools that make it easier for companies to build, train, and deploy AI models at scale.

"The hyperscalers want to be the utilities over the next 20 or 30 years,” said Cory, “and the best workflows are AI."

By providing access to powerful computing resources and pre-built AI services, he says, hyperscalers have lowered the barriers to entry for companies looking to leverage AI.

While the commoditization of AI algorithms and infrastructure has made it easier for companies to get started with AI, it has also made it harder to maintain a competitive edge based on algorithms alone. Instead, the real differentiator will be the ability to access and leverage unique, high-quality data to train industry-specific models.

"There's datasets that don't exist on the internet,” said Cory, “so unless you have a deep understanding of the workflow and unique edges on data, you're not going to have solutions that work in that industry."

As the AI landscape continues to evolve, the focus will shift towards data as the key differentiator, with companies that can access and leverage proprietary datasets being best positioned to succeed.

The Untapped Potential of Industry-Specific Data

Companies that can acquire, manage, and leverage proprietary datasets tailored to their specific domains will be well-positioned to build powerful, differentiated AI applications that drive real business value.

One of the key advantages of industry-specific data is its ability to capture the unique nuances, challenges, and opportunities within a particular sector.

“If the data is not on the internet, there's unique edges on it that can be built from not just private datasets, but how users are working and utilizing that," said Cory.

By leveraging these niche datasets, he argues, companies can develop AI models that are fine-tuned to the specific needs and characteristics of their industry. This will enable them to uncover insights and drive improvements that would be difficult or impossible to achieve with more generic datasets.

For example, in the healthcare industry, access to proprietary patient data can enable the development of AI-powered diagnostic tools that can identify diseases earlier and with greater accuracy than traditional methods. A study published in the journal Nature Medicine demonstrated how a deep learning model trained on a large dataset of lung cancer CT scans was able to outperform six radiologists in detecting malignant lung nodules (Ardila et al., 2019).

Similarly, in the financial sector, unique datasets on consumer behavior and transaction patterns can be used to build AI models for fraud detection, risk assessment, and personalized investment recommendations.

But acquiring and leveraging industry-specific data is not without its challenges. One of the biggest hurdles is the proprietary nature of many datasets, which can make it difficult for companies to gain access to the data they need. Additionally, even when data is available, it may be unstructured, incomplete, or of varying quality, requiring significant preprocessing and cleaning before it can be used to train AI models.

Companies that can effectively navigate these challenges and build robust data pipelines will be well-positioned to capitalize on the untapped potential of industry-specific data.

Bridging the Gap: Collaboration Between Data Owners and AI Providers

As the AI landscape continues to evolve and the focus shifts towards industry-specific data as a key differentiator, the importance of collaborations between data owners and AI providers has become increasingly apparent. These partnerships bring together the domain expertise of industry professionals with the technical know-how of AI companies, creating a powerful synergy that can unlock the full potential of AI in specific sectors.

Data owners, such as healthcare providers, financial institutions, or manufacturing companies, possess a wealth of industry-specific knowledge and proprietary datasets. But they may lack the necessary AI expertise to fully leverage this data and develop effective AI solutions.

On the other hand, AI providers have the technical capabilities to build and deploy sophisticated AI models, but they may not have access to the niche datasets or the deep understanding of industry-specific challenges required to create truly impactful solutions.

As Cory points out in the interview, "Finding someone to kind of lean in and bridge that gap, that's where we're seeing potential. So it's less about one technology and it's more about trying to be a translator between different worlds."

By collaborating with AI providers, data owners can tap into a wealth of expertise and resources to unlock the value of their proprietary datasets. AI companies can help data owners navigate the complex landscape of AI technologies, providing guidance on data preprocessing, model selection, and deployment strategies. They can also bring a fresh perspective to industry-specific challenges, leveraging their experience across multiple domains to identify novel applications and use cases for AI.

These collaborations can lead to the development of powerful, industry-specific AI applications that would be difficult for either party to achieve alone. By combining the domain expertise of data owners with the technical capabilities of AI providers, these partnerships can create AI solutions that are fine-tuned to the unique needs and challenges of specific industries. As the World Economic Forum points out:

"Collaborations between AI providers and domain experts can lead to the development of AI solutions that are more accurate, reliable, and effective than those developed by either party alone".

The benefits of these collaborations extend beyond just the development of effective AI solutions. By working together, data owners and AI providers can also foster a culture of innovation and continuous improvement within their respective industries.

These partnerships can help break down silos between different stakeholders, facilitating the sharing of knowledge and best practices. They can also create new opportunities for growth and value creation, as the insights generated by AI applications can lead to the identification of new business models and revenue streams.

Navigating the Future of AI Competition

As the AI landscape continues to evolve and mature, it is becoming increasingly clear that the most successful companies will be those that can effectively leverage industry-specific data to develop powerful, differentiated AI applications. While having access to cutting-edge algorithms and infrastructure is certainly important, it is no longer enough to sustain a long-term competitive advantage. Instead, the future of AI competition will be shaped by those organizations that can acquire, manage, and leverage proprietary datasets to unlock new insights, drive efficiency gains, and create innovative products and services.

For companies looking to harness the power of AI for competitive advantage, the key will be to develop strategies for acquiring and leveraging unique, high-quality datasets. This may involve forging partnerships with industry partners or data providers, participating in data marketplaces, or investing in internal data generation and collection capabilities. By taking a proactive approach to data acquisition and management, companies can position themselves to capitalize on the untapped potential of industry-specific data and drive transformative business outcomes.

Ultimately, the future of AI will be shaped by those companies that can effectively bridge the gap between cutting-edge technology and deep industry expertise. As Cory notes:

"It is the greatest time to be an entrepreneur. If you're working in this space and you understand how to use it, it's like you've just been given a brand new tool for your toolbox."

By staying at the forefront of AI innovation, while also remaining grounded in the realities and challenges of specific industries, companies can unlock the full potential of AI and drive long-term success in an increasingly competitive and dynamic business landscape. The race is on to capture the value of industry-specific data, and those who can effectively navigate this new terrain will be well-positioned to lead the way in the AI-powered future.

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