No code interface
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High time for low code?

Protocol Enterprise

Hello and welcome to Protocol Enterprise! Today: why low-code and no-code software development tools have yet to find their groove, why everybody freaked out about Google’s so-called “sentient” AI last weekend, and the latest funding rounds raised by enterprise tech startups.

Low-code/no-code hasn’t peaked yet

The developer shortage may have spurred investment in low-code and no-code software development tools, but VCs and tech giants are still waiting for the industry’s breakout moment.

If you listen to its backers, the low-code/no-code movement has taken the enterprise tech industry by storm.

  • A wave of startups including Builder.ai and Genesis Global have raised $100 million or more, and SaaS giants from ServiceNow and Salesforce to Microsoft have built their own brand of low-code and no-code development features.
  • Around late last year, there were “over 200-and-something low- and no-code startups, vendors, large companies like ourselves in this market,” said Marcus Torres, vice president of ServiceNow’s low-code platform App Engine.

But despite the market activity, industry experts and practitioners disagree on where the real value of the industry lies.

  • Most of the companies Protocol spoke with agree that those tools do actually make the process of coding less time-consuming for development teams.
  • But former-developer-turned-VC Mackey Craven disagreed that developers are the best target market for these tools. “To me, it's a little bit more about taking someone who [doesn’t have] the full level of specialized skill sets to be a developer themselves and providing them more capability to solve their own problems,” he said.

The question also remains whether standalone low-code and no-code vendors or platform players will capture the market.

  • Even though companies like Mendix, OutSystems and Retool have found some success as standalone development platforms, some industry practitioners don't believe these types of companies will survive longer term.
  • “I think the industry is changing right now to the point where you can't be standalone any longer,” said Matt Calkins, founder and CEO of low-code platform Appian.

One thing seems certain, however: Low-code and no-code development aren’t going away anytime soon and the industry is still building toward its breakout moment. “I think within companies, they are on the forefront of it and they're breaking out now, but it's still early,” said Chris Yin, a principal at Scale Venture Partners. “We're still waiting for more.”

Read the full story here.


— Aisha Counts (email | twitter)

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Why AI Twitter freaked out about 'sentient' AI

Twitter was ablaze this weekend, but it had nothing to do with Amber Heard. Instead, tech geeks were up in arms over a Googler’s contention that a natural-language-processing model developed by the company is “sentient,” and therefore may have achieved the AI holy grail: artificial general intelligence.

Blake Lemoine, a Google engineer and philosophical rabble-rouser who was the subject of a Washington Post profile, thinks Google’s LaMDA model might have a mind of its own. Some people who read the article worried about the implications for humanity if AI becomes self-aware. Meanwhile, AI ethicists and pragmatists dismissed Lemoine’s contention.

“‘Sentient’ is being misapplied by many ML folks,” tweeted Oregon State University AI professor Thomas Dietterich. Author and NYU AI professor Gary Marcus agreed, noting, “[L]anguage these systems utter doesn’t actually mean anything at all. And it sure as hell doesn’t mean that these systems are sentient.”

Lemoine believes Google should be more forthcoming about LaMDA’s capabilities. He even told a House Judiciary committee member about “Google’s unethical activities,” and was placed on administrative leave by the company as a result.

Meanwhile, some AI ethicists including former Googlers Timnit Gebru and Meredith Whittaker pointed to profit-driven AI business models as the key reason for the AGI hype.

While machine-learning models are probably nowhere near general intelligence, there is one thing Lemoine has pushed for that could matter sooner: the notion of legal personhood for LaMDA. If AI-based tech is deemed to be a person in the eyes of the law, it could have meaningful legal implications for liability, copyright and other issues.

— Kate Kaye (email | twitter)

Financial corner

Backbase was valued at $2.6 billion after raising $128 million to help banks manage their data.

Vanta was valued at $1.6 billion after raising $110 million to help enterprises comply with data security standards.

Immuta was valued at $1 billion after raising $100 million from Snowflake and other investors to help secure access to cloud data.

Symbotic raised $725 million for its warehouse robotics system.

Codat raised $100 million to help lending and payments companies connect to small businesses via APIs.

— Aisha Counts (email | twitter)

Around the enterprise

Oracle beat Wall Street expectations for both revenue and profit, crediting its cloud infrastructure business for lifting its performance without providing any actual details on how the infrastructure business actually performed.


Intel shared more details about the process technology it will use to build the chips scheduled on its roadmap for 2023.

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Thanks for reading — see you tomorrow!

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