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D. Scott Phoenix, Partner at Fifty Years
Welcome the newest Partner at Fifty Years!
Since we started Fifty Years over 8 years ago, we’ve never added a Partner from outside the firm. Until now. Today feels like a new founding moment for Fifty Years as we welcome D. Scott Phoenix as a Partner.
Scott is one of the most successful and experienced AI entrepreneurs. He founded Vicarious in 2010 to build AGI because he reasoned it was the highest reward-to-effort idea that could make humanity better. At the time, AI was deeply unpopular – AlexNet had yet to exist, the ecosystem was deep in another AI winter, and no one was funding AI companies.
Against tough headwinds, Scott got to work. He and his co-founder Dileep George assembled a small team to build the first AI that could solve any Captcha. They then beat DeepMind at Atari, including adversarial versions of games that demonstrated the Vicarious AI was learning cause and effect. Over the course of a decade, Scott raised $250M from iconic entrepreneurs like Dustin Muskovitz, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk, and some of the biggest names in deep tech VC, like Founders Fund, 8VC, DCVC, and Khosla Ventures. They pioneered AI systems that learn and reason like humans while scaling an AI + robotics business for manufacturing and logistics. In 2022, Scott and his co-founder led Vicarious to a successful acquisition by Alphabet and spent a year integrating the company with Intrinsic and DeepMind.
Over Scott’s time building Vicarious, AI went from an academic niche to one of the most explosive new engines for economic growth. And so, the world no longer needed Scott to evangelize the promise and power of AI. Enter Fifty Years.
We met Scott shortly after he left Google and hit it off right away. We were impressed by Scott’s deep desire to make the world a better place. He’s pushed us to dream bigger. When talking about achieving Fifty Years’ mission of solving the world’s biggest problems with technology entrepreneurship, he asked us: How many founders a year could start such an impactful company? When we did the math, we estimated more than 10,000 people a year have what it takes to be such a founder (it’s a fun Fermi problem we’ll share later!). That’s 300x more people than we back in a year. Scott immediately took it as his next ten year quest to close the gap between founders who could start a deep tech company and those who actually do.
That kind of ambition only matters if you’re willing to work. Scott wants to spend his energy battling the ugly inertia dragging the world towards dystopia and despondency. He believes, like us, that empowering founders is the best way to pull forward the future we all need. We’re amazed at the degree to which Scott leans into the less glamorous parts of the job, especially helping founders navigate difficult challenges. He embodies the Fifty Years Founders First culture.
He’s been instrumental at helping 50Y portfolio founders hone in on great 15 minute pitches and work through hard strategic decisions, calling in the best experts in his network to iron out the gritty details. Scott brings a special intensity and energy when working with founders and is able to elicit self-belief out of everyone in the room. The harder and messier the situation, the more he leans in. Often, when he’d suggest a solution, the rest of our team would think “I wish I’d thought of that!” We couldn’t imagine a better builder and ally to our founders.
Scott will have a broad focus at Fifty Years, including AI but not limited to it. Deep tech is as important for AI as AI is for deep tech. You have pioneering companies like Nvidia and other material science companies that are going to be essential for the future of AI. And now you have AI companies that are pushing forward what’s possible in materials science, space, biology, energy, and more. There’s a virtuous cycle and, at Fifty Years, Scott can help accelerate from both directions.
To manifest the full potential of AI to help humanity thrive, we need to advance core capabilities and apply AI to things like unlimited clean energy, the end of aging, accelerated science, and other future goods. We don't just want the AI computer from Star Trek, we want it all – warp drives, advanced medicine, the replicator. At Fifty Years, we're helping founders build the Star Trek future. All of it.
We’re excited to make history with Scott and can’t wait to share more of what we’re building together at Fifty Years.
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