If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Rodolfo Rosini, a genuine serial entrepreneur and well-connected figure in the U.K. startup scene, is giving up startup life to move over to the “dark side” and become a VC.
He’s joined Zeroth.ai, the Hong Kong-based AI and machine learning-focused accelerator, as a Partner — a move Rosini tells me was inspired by the technology’s potential to drive “exponential growth” and his own learnings having founded three AI startups of his own, albeit with limited success.
The first was Storybricks, which ran from 2010 to 2015 and developed immersive, AI-driven storytelling for video games. Despite decent revenues — including a contract working on EverQuest Next for Sony — Rosini says that, in the end, the startup couldn’t scale.
This was followed by Weave.ai, an alumni of TechStars London 2015, which worked on merging machine learning and graph theory and ran for two years. “Ultimately the product could only be useful for existing AI agents and there was no way to go to market,” he says.
And then there was short-lived Kalitta, co-founded with Slush-founder Ville Vesterinen to deploy AI models on blockchains. Founded in late 2017, it was killed after just three months as the market was “too bubbly without any mass customer adoption”.
Prior to Rosini’s AI upstarts, he also founded a number of cybersecurity companies, all of which saw relative success, including Cellcrypt, which he successfully exited.
On joining Zeroth.ai, Rosini says he is bullish about AI because “it’s a force multiplier, bigger than any previous tech revolutions”. But, as it stands, there isn’t a stable supply of smart capital going into early stage AI, which he is hoping to help alter.
“Mobile changed some parts of the world a lot, so will blockchain, but if you look at how people lived 60 years ago (or 2000 years ago for that matter if you want to go extreme), we go through the same motions. We wake up, drive to work, use public transport, the way we consume etc, technology gave us more caloric leverage but the structure of society hasn’t changed,” he says.
“I believe we are headed towards exponential growth and the one technology behind it is AI. And I believe some things will be solved once (like transportation), and everything after that will have diminishing returns. So doesn’t make sense to run only one AI company right now, unless it’s GAFA-sized. And the advantage of an accelerator is that I can do things that they won’t”.
In addition to his multiple ventures, Rosini has been an advisor behind the scenes for a while, with TechStars (UK/US) and Entrepreneur First startups, and more recently Zeroth itself.
“Generally speaking I have been trying to help as many people without the expertise to navigate the London and SF tech scene which is hard if you don’t have the initial connections,” he adds. “When I moved to London in 2002 I knew four people in total so I know how hard it can be”.
I can personally attest to Rosini’s helpfulness. I first met him at a dinner shortly after I quit TechCrunch to do a startup of my own all the way back in 2011, where he offered to connect me with London VCs, not knowing we’d already raised.
And a couple of years ago I called him up to help me prepare for an AI panel I was appearing on. “I’ve got 20 minutes, teach me everything I need to know about Artificial Intelligence,” I said, ambitiously. Let’s just say, I didn’t end up looking like a fool.
Meanwhile, along with Rosini, Zeroth.ai has picked up another new partner. Sherman Lee, who previously founded Rocco.AI and GoodAudience.com, has also joined the AI and machine learning-focused accelerator where he’s focusing on funding AI and blockchain companies.