Eight years ago, I was spending time at Stanford to explore some hypotheses about emerging technical trends when I first met Chris Ré, MacArthur Genius award winner and associate professor of computer science. I quickly came to appreciate his sharp wit and ability to cut to the chase. In his work with Stanford DAWN and the Statistical Machine Learning Group, Chris has spent countless hours studying how software and hardware systems evolve in the era of machine learning (ML). His work gives him a unique lens on the impact ML will have on business processes and the broader application of AI, and this has led him to co-create AI-enabled inference engines and faster AI systems.
I've been fortunate enough to invest in three companies that Chris co-founded: Lattice.io (acquired in 2017), SambaNova Systems, and most recently Snorkel AI. From a significant acquisition to building a multi-billion-dollar business, Chris may be the most successful AI startup founder that you've never heard of. Not only is he successful, and not only does he have deep technical chops; Chris is hard-working, intensely focused, and humble. He runs away from hype, and you won't find him indulging in self-promotion (or even the promotion of his companies). Instead, he's at Stanford's AI Lab, where he's quietly doing what he loves: recruiting a diverse A+ team of academic superstars, fostering their growth, supporting their explorations, and furthering his academic work through myriad technical projects.
Chris and I sat down recently to discuss the launch of Snorkel AI and his adventures in serial entrepreneurship. He offered some key advice for founders:
Seek long-lasting relationships. Chris cautions against viewing relationships as transactional. Whether it's customers or partners, try to cultivate long-term partnerships that can help you refine and understand your ideas better.
Hire diverse teams. Recruit a diverse set of people with different viewpoints. A diversity of experiences and opinions positions you for success when you need to solve vastly different sets of problems. Technical success doesn't exist in a vacuum— you need the right team and people to bring your ideas to life.
Find investors and advisors who will challenge you. Look for investors who aren't just cheerleaders, but who will intellectually engage and challenge you. Investors you trust can provide honest feedback on new ideas and product directions.
Chris is the kind of entrepreneur we love at GV. He's inherently curious with a passion for learning; he prioritizes what matters and has the self-confidence to stay focused. He deliberately tests hypotheses and evolves his understanding of changing markets. We look forward to many more years of teaming up with him.