Inaugural GTC Israel Focuses on Nation of Startups
Over 1,600 developers, entrepreneurs and technologists jammed into Tel Aviv’s glass-walled Convention Center on Wednesday, the latest swing in our six-city global GPU Technology Conference tour.
In a broad and technically deep keynote, NVIDIA founder and CEO Jensen Huang described the new computing era set loose by accelerated computing. He provided an often detailed, at times sly, tour of the three computing platforms NVIDIA’s created to propel enterprises in this brave new world: the Holodeck VR collaboration studio; AI computing for training and staggeringly fast inferencing; and the next generation of autonomous machines, such as self-driving cars and robotics.
Standing-room audiences attended many of the conference’s 50 plus speaking sessions, delivered by a mix of local startup CEOs, researchers and execs from U.S. tech giants. Nearly two dozen local startups had booths in the exhibition hall, where they described their disruptive activities using GPUs. And six hot AI startups went head to head, competing for an AI personal supercomputer.
Huang told a crowd of reporters that GTC Israel was an opportunity for NVIDIA to engage with some of Israel’s 120,000 developers in one of the world’s most flourishing technology centers.
Our Journey as a Global Company Has Just Begun
“We see ourselves in large part as a startup, and our journey to become a global company has only just begun,” Huang said in a voice hoarse from delivering his third GTC keynote in as many weeks, following events in Beijing and Munich.
“We’re here in Israel for the same reasons that a lot of international companies come to Israel — we’re looking for talent,” Huang said. “And this is a wonderful place to create innovation, for lots of reasons — education, the army, cultural and human diversity and more. All these create a very magical place here, and I’m excited about our future plans here.”
Israel, after all, a country the size of New Jersey and with fewer residents than New York City, has won a dozen Nobel prizes. It lags behind only the U.S. in the value of invested VC funds and the most number of startups in absolute terms. It also has by far the most startups relative to its size, with some 5,000 new companies in a country of 8.5 million people.
The broadly diverse crowd at GTC Israel ranged from snappily dressed VCs to soldiers in army green attached to IDF technical units, to jean-clad startup engineers from the constellation of towns north of Tel Aviv. Many said they could relate to NVIDIA’s own rise from a three-man startup 25 years ago to a $100 billion company, measured by market cap.
Huang told them that they stand at a unique juncture.
A New Era for Startups
“In each era, new startups were formed and grew to be giants. It’s now a new era, and it’s very clear this new era will be the largest of all,” he said in his keynote. “In previous waves, automation was the biggest force — farming was automated, the industrial revolution was automation, and now this is era of the automation of automation. The potential of AI is so incredibly exciting, it’s fueling innovation all over the world.”
As at other NVIDIA events this year, GTC Israel featured hands-on courses in AI techniques from the company’s Deep Learning Institute the day before the show kicked off. The offerings were sold out, with more than 200 experienced developers augmenting their AI skills in a variety of areas.
NVIDIA announced at GTC Israel that its Inception program – a virtual incubator for AI and big-data startups – has now reached 2,000 companies worldwide, with the addition of Imagry, a Haifa-based startup using machine learning to embed image recognition capabilities on any device.
And while 70 Inception members are in Israel, six of the most exciting competed head-to-head to win an NVIDIA DGX Station AI personal supercomputer. The winner was Cognata, which uses simulations to train autonomous vehicles across wide-ranging, realistic environments without ever pulling out of the driveway. Its CEO, Danny Atsmon, said that this is his third startup that relies on NVIDIA GPUs to accelerate its workflow.
Where You Come to See the Future
In his keynote, Huang emphasized the acceleration capabilities of GPUs, which can drive speedups of more than 100x, allowing work to be done dramatically faster, leading to more innovation at lower cost. That, effectively, means they can enable time travel.
“If GPUs really are time machines, then GTC is where you come to see the future,” he said.