BITSync 2023

Prakash Narayan-

With the theme Craft, Create, Celebrate, BITS Pilani Alumni Association (BITSAA) Silicon Valley Chapter (BITSAA SVC)  hosted BITSync 23 conference, where technologists, academia, venture capitalists, CXOs, top executives, elected officials, as well as startups highlighted areas in Generative AI, ChatGPT, Energy, Climate, the need for regulations and BITS Pilani’s bold vision and aspirations for 2030.

“We want to Celebrate being BITSians and the success that we bring in the valley, but at the same time craft new relationships and create opportunities for each of us,” said Ankush Bagotra, BITSAA SVC president to fellow alumnus past month. The daylong conference was held at Jewish Community Center, Palo Alto, California.

It was a jam-packed agenda with two tracks from the get-go. The panel on Exploring the Limitless Potential of Generative AI and ChatGPT was moderated by Chandra Khatri, Co-founder of GotIT AI. The panelists included Karthick Iyer, VP of Software Engineering at NVIDIA; Kiran Bhat, Sr. Director of Engineering, Roblox; Nazneen Rajani, Research Lead, Hugging Face and Vishal Parikh, Co-founder of Hippocratic AI. Nazneen mentioned that Hugging Face is building an Open Source ChatGPT. 1200 to 1400 researchers from 70+ countries and 250+ institutions from around the world have contributed to a multilingual Large Language Model (LLM), called Bloom. This enables academia, nonprofits and smaller companies’ research labs to use LLMs. The pivotal moment in LLMs was the open-source release of LLaMA – a foundational 65-billion-parameter LLM by Meta. Vishal Parikh talked about Hippocratic’s belief that LLMs today are not safe for clinical diagnosis. However, they are focused on 1000s of other (administrative) applications for LLMs in healthcare that can dramatically increase access and outcomes. Karthick Iyer mentioned that NVIDIA has put Omniverse (the platform for creating and operating metaverse operations) in the cloud. The question of how regulation can keep up with the pace at which technology is advancing was discussed. Given that AI is playing a crucial role in our everyday lives, it is important to have ethical frameworks to guide their design. It is also critical to have RLHF–reinforced learning with Human Feedback. Here a pre-trained model is fine-tuned using a model that has been developed using human feedback.

BITS Pilani Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ramgopal Rao provided the morning keynote address. He talked about the huge strides made across campuses in terms of over 1800 PhD students, of which 41.5% are female. Of the 930+ faculty, 22.5% are female. BITS has produced 13 Unicorns and 1 Decacorn. There are 7500+ Startup founders from BITS. Some of the key achievements include the opening of BITS School of Management and Law in Mumbai. Soon a BITS Design school will open in the Mumbai campus, making BITS a global, multi-disciplinary University. BITS was awarded a research grant of Rs. 1.25 billion for innovation in Bio-Cyber Physical Systems. Prof. Rao outlined a bold vision and aspirations for 2030, which includes driving research excellence. A separate article on Prof. Rao’s conversation with Ritu Jha can be found here.

Distinguished Alumni Awards was handed to four outstanding Alumni:[clockwise photos]

  1. BP Agarwal, President of Sustainable Innovations, Inc.
  2. Kartik Hosanagar, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
  3. Thampy Thomas, Elxsi Co-founder
  4. Abhinav Asthana, CEO, Postman

California State Senator Josh Becker gave the afternoon keynote address. He spoke about accelerating California’s transition to 100% clean energy. California has made significant progress in reducing emissions (by over 50%) while growing the GDP (by over 60%) since 2000. The strategy is to electrify as much as possible and use low-carbon fuel cells for hard-to-electrify use cases. Carbon dioxide removal will be done in order to achieve net zero. California’s Climate Commitment includes making significant budget agreements to the tune of $54.1 billion. Sen. Becker added that clean electricity is the basis for everything – this includes faster build rates for renewable energy; kick starting offshore wind (that is, taking advantage of the force of the wind that is produced on the high seas). The highest priority, he said, was the greening of transportation. Almost 50% of the total emissions are from this sector. The next focus is the greening of buildings – since most heating and water heating are powered by methane gas. He mentioned that the CA ISO app provides information regarding the grid’s demands and monitors the California ISO power grid conditions.

 

The BITSync Startup Showcase saw a stellar panel of judges that included Preetish Nijhawan, Niraj Saran, Swati Bhatia, Sundi Natarajan and Ajay Chopra evaluate 5 different startups. The best presentation award was given to Chandrika Maheshwari for the startup Pull – a company on a mission to revolutionize the way people manage and access their earnings with a mission of unlocking financial freedom for everyone. The best startup award was given to Chetan Reddy for the startup Confido Health – a company that assists surgery centers streamline their operations by using an AI co-pilot. This helps them improve patient care and optimize routine administrative tasks and processes.

The final panel[top main photo] of the day was on BITS Spark – Igniting Entrepreneurship. BITS Spark is an Angel network of BITS Alumni. The panel was moderated by Sundi Natarajan. Panelists included Raju Reddy. Sundi and Raju represented the BITS Spark investors. The other panelists were Vipin Jain and Samay Kohli. Vipin and Samay represented successful entrepreneurs funded by BITS Spark. Samay confirmed that the BITS Spark Angels offered assistance in ways far beyond financial assistance. This included an introduction to CXO’s as potential customers and tie-ups with incubators and accelerators.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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