Last week, I dove into the deep end of the pool, reviewing over 300 startups. Yes, you read that right. 300. In a week. It's like speed dating, but instead of awkward conversations, it's all pitches and prototypes. During the past year, it seems like AI is the belle of the ball.

Now, let me share a secret from the front lines: most of these AI startups fit snugly into two categories. First, we have what I like to call the "ChatGPT but for X" crowd. Imagine, if you will, a tool that writes emails for marketers because we've forgotten how to communicate. Then, there's the second group, crafting AI solutions as specific as a left-handed screwdriver, targeted at niche industries.

But here's the rub: more often than not, there's no secret sauce. No mysterious ingredient that makes their AI as indispensable as, say, coffee. Sure, they can sell. Oh, can they sell? Big companies, with budgets as expansive as their thirst for innovation, lap it up, eager to test new tech. Yet, sadly, these solutions often lack the unique value needed to prevent them from being as easily replaced as last season's fashion trends.

Now, for my fellow VCs and me, we're not just in it for the thrill of the chase. We're looking for the unicorns promising a fund-sized exit. For us, that means dreaming of a €100M exit. But let's face it, not every AI startup, no matter how life-changing it may be for its founders, fits this bill.

So, what's a valid VC case in AI? Two words: secret algorithm. We're talking about a startup that not only whispers sweet nothings of innovation but also brings a game-changing, proprietary algo to the table. And it can't just be smart; it needs to be the Einstein of algorithms, generating massive, undeniable value for its clients. We're talking value so clearly, that you can slap a price tag on it.

Last week there was one startup among 100, that had a secret.

The moral of the story? While the AI gold rush is on, and there's plenty of glitter, not everything's gold. For us VCs, the real gems are those rare finds that not only dazzle with their tech but also solve a genuine, dollarizable problem.

So, to all you aspiring AI moguls out there, before you pitch, ask yourself: "Is my AI the kind that will make a VC sit up and take notice? Does it have a secret worth whispering about?" Because at the end of the day, that's what will separate the fleeting fads from the legends.

Ah, but enough from me. Time to dive back into the startup sea. Who knows? Maybe the next pitch will be the one that redefines the game.

I checked 100 AI startups last week, here's the VC's candid take

Explore a VC's take on evaluating AI startups.