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Cathie Wood, AI headline Innovation Showcase

Mark Parker



Cathie Wood, founder and CEO of ARK Invest, provided the keynote speech Wednesday at the Tampa Bay Innovation Center's Innovation Showcase. Photos by Mark Parker.

A capacity crowd at St. Petersburg’s recently opened ARK Innovation Center gleaned insight into the precipitous rise in artificial intelligence capabilities from the building’s namesake Wednesday morning.

Cathie Wood, founder and CEO of ARK Invest, bought the 40,000-square-foot facility’s naming rights for $2 million after moving her company to the city in November 2021. She also served as the keynote speaker for the Tampa Bay Innovation Center’s (TBIC) Innovation Showcase.

The event highlighted eight early-stage startup founders who participated in the TBIC’s AI accelerator program throughout the fall of 2023. Wood believes they are capitalizing on the “biggest moment in technology history.”

“Technology is permeating every industry in every sector,” Wood said. “There’s a blurring of the lines, and the opportunities, therefore, are huge as AI scales across sectors.”

Wood’s keynote speech, much like her prominent firm’s investment strategy, focused on technological convergences. ARK’s target industries include robotics, energy storage, genomics and blockchain applications, and every sector now incorporates AI.

Wood said many tech entrepreneurs ignore the healthcare industry due to regulations, payment challenges and other issues. However, she noted that CRISPR, a highly precise gene editing tool, utilizes AI to transform disease research and treatment.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the first CRISPR therapies. “That’s transforming people’s lives,” Wood said.

“It’s one-and-done; edit a gene – cured,” she added. “But if we didn’t have (gene) sequencing, and we didn’t have AI, we couldn’t identify the mutations.”

Wood said the five aforementioned sectors are simultaneously evolving and converging to create a technological wave not seen since the Industrial Age. She believes the collective impact will double the economic output provided by the invention of electricity, the telephone and the internal combustion engine.

Wood explained that sensor technology is increasing robotics safety and use cases and used Amazon’s decreasing employment numbers as an example. She attributed the recent decline to the conglomerate doubling the number of robots it deploys from 500,000 to one million.

However, Wood reserved her highest praise for AI. She said the technology is accelerating faster than ARK ever expected, “and we’ve been pushing the envelope.”

“Most people think we’re a bit crazy when we say some of the things we do,” Wood said. “But if anything, we’ve been too conservative.”

Futurists and philosophers often debate when the world will see artificial general intelligence (AGI). That requires software to learn and think like a human.

Wood noted that in 2019 – before today’s large language models barrelled into the public consciousness – most experts thought machines would not achieve AGI for another 80 years. She said the general consensus is now under a decade.

“Maybe this will reverse if you have some kind of backlash or … technological setback,” Wood added. “But I wouldn’t be surprised – that’s how the world’s changing.”

The Innovation Showcase was one of the first public events in the Tampa Bay Innovation Center’s expansive new facility.

TBIC’s AI cohort received one-on-one mentorship from industry experts throughout the nearly three-month accelerator program. Founders also participated in workshops covering customer discovery, product strategy, pricing and go-to-market skills.

The Innovation Showcase was the first to highlight tech entrepreneurs in the new facility. They pitched their products and companies to a panel of investors and audience stakeholders.

The Fall 2023 AI accelerator cohort includes:

  • Aapya Solutions: A Florida-based company that creates computer vision systems for security and inventory control.
  • Archslate: A Tampa-based startup that provides talent management and training for architects.
  • Blue Fusion: A Florida-based platform for simplifying data collection and analysis.
  • Dataplant: A Missouri-based company that automates customer success and revenue predictability.
  • MetaCommerz: A Delaware-based firm that enhances supply chain resiliency.
  • NoxuData: A New York-based startup that integrates large language models with legacy enterprise data.
  • A New York-based company that predicts buyer behavior through automated market research.
  • A Georgia-based firm that analyzes and optimizes sales team performance.




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  1. Avatar

    Steven Brady

    March 12, 2024at10:11 am

    You are 100% correct. I would never invest with her. I wouldn’t recommend anyone ever do that. Within the long-term investing community, she is considered a bizarre joke.

  2. Avatar


    February 24, 2024at7:18 pm

    Tell me you don’t understand investment or statistics without telling me you don’t understand investment or statistics. You’ve never heard of cherry picking??? How to even make a comment without it getting censored???

  3. Mark Parker

    Mark Parker

    February 24, 2024at11:52 am

    ARKK is up 25% over the past year and 136% since its launch. The Innovation ETF gained over 400% from January 2020 through January 2021.

  4. Avatar

    Steven Brady

    February 22, 2024at4:51 pm

    Her fund has lost more value for more people than any I can readily think of. The last I looked, she averaged if I remember correctly -3% for the past five years.

    Also if I recall, her goal was to make at least 15% on average per year.

    She has never come close to that.

    Go look at her fund folks. On Yahoo finance or elsewhere. ARKK is the ticker sign.

    And read what Vanguard recently wrote about her.

    Don’t take my word for it.

    Interesting choice for a speaker.

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