Adapt or Extinct: Custom GPTs and the Evolution of Startups

OpenAI's Custom GPTs have unleashed a seismic shift for startups. Those who evolve amidst the chaos will survive and thrive in the next era of tech innovation.

Jon Reilly, Co-CEO

December 15, 2023

4 Min Read
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Brain light via Alamy Stock

In the vast landscape of technological evolution, the recent unveiling of OpenAI's Custom GPTs can be likened to a meteoric event, shaking the very foundations of the startup ecosystem. Much like Steven Spielberg's “Life on Our Planet,” where the first episode is aptly titled “The Rules of Life,” the dynamics in the startup realm are undergoing a seismic shift. The question that looms large is: Did a mass extinction of startups just occur?

Spielberg's first rule, “The best adapted will always win through,” resonates deeply in the tech ecosystem. Large language models (LLMs) are now environmental, but Custom GPTs present a new set of rules. Companies that build deep value on top of LLMs will become the best adapted in this scenario - because they can provide insights that OpenAI cannot. 

The second rule, “Competition drives adaptation,” takes center stage as startups face a new contender in the form of OpenAI's Custom GPTs. The ability to harness the power of AI is now a prerequisite for survival. Those who embrace and integrate this technology will find themselves on the winning side of the competition, echoing the age-old principles of evolution. 

The third rule, “Earth never remains stable for long,” draws a parallel to the rapidly changing landscape of the startup industry. OpenAI's announcement sends ripples across the entrepreneurial world, causing both chaos and opportunity. The environment will continue to shift, but the economy - and business interest in products -- moves on.

Related:ChatGPT: Benefits, Drawbacks, and Ethical Considerations for IT Organizations

And while we’ve been focused on startups and the impact Custom GPTs will have on them, the bigger challenge might be for incumbents. Startups are nimble and many have built their solutions on AI as native underpinning components, giving them not only a broader arsenal but making them formidable players in technology. Incumbents, who tend to be slower to adopt and incorporate new technologies into their offerings, may find themselves akin to the dinosaurs if they do not find a way to adapt and catch up quickly. The acceleration of technological evolution is like the rules of life that have governed our planet for eons -- a perpetual cycle of competition and adaptation. It doesn’t matter if a company was founded yesterday or twenty years ago -- the one that offers the best product and that delivers the most value will always win out.

If startups see this change in the ecosystem as an opportunity, instead of a threat, they are already starting on the path to success and survival. Custom GPTs should not be viewed as a replacement for a task -- they are tools that elevate the capabilities of those building upon them. And while this means that the simpler applications might not be as needed, it will empower more startups to build solutions that solve more complex problems. And there is an opening for that -- you can't white-label a Custom GPT or seamlessly integrate it into your website. Startups just need to reframe their mentality. Instead of focusing on what Custom GPTs can do, they should focus on what they can’t do and adjust the path ahead accordingly. 

Related:How Could AI Be a Tool for Workers?

And it’s important to note that after the meteor, comes the ice age. Meaning, it is unlikely that this will be the only move by OpenAI, or another company, that will disrupt the startup ecosystem. More innovations will come, and more startups will have to learn to pivot in response. Those who remain nimble, who stay on the cutting edge of innovation, and who deliver real results and value to their customers will continue to evade extinction. 

The emergence of Custom GPTs is more than a technological breakthrough; it is a transformative moment in the business world. It signifies a call to evolve, to become AI natives, embedding AI deeply in business ethos and operations. As history has repeatedly shown, in the face of evolutionary change, those who adapt most effectively lead the way forward.

Related:Making the Most of Generative AI in Your Business: Practical Tips and Tricks

OpenAI's move is not a death knell for startups; instead, it is a catalyst that propels them into uncharted territories of innovation. The meteor may have hit, but it's the small, adaptable creatures that stand a chance at survival. The startups, with their agility and ability to respond, are not facing extinction but rather a rejuvenation as we enter a new era with new winners set to emerge. 

About the Author(s)

Jon Reilly

Co-CEO, Akkio

Jon Reilly is an innovative and results-driven executive with more than 20 years of experience in product management, business development, marketing, and operations. Reilly serves as the Co-founder and co-CEO of Akkio, a pioneer in generative business intelligence for agencies looking to deliver impactful and strategic results to their clients. Before Akkio, Reilly served in leadership positions at companies like Markforged and Sonos. He holds an MBA in Entrepreneurship/Entrepreneurial Studies from Babson College – Franklin W. Olin Graduate School of Business and a BSEE in Electrical Engineering from Gonzaga University.

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