Family Dinner Recap: Brylan Donaldson, Associate Director of The Garage

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Event Recaps
Jake Noda
Oct 23, 2023
brylan speaking to students at family dinner

On Tuesday, October 3, Residents at The Garage listened to speaker Brylan Donaldson, the Associate Director for The Garage. Brylan is an experienced entrepreneur, having led and fostered significant growth at Blavity, stimulated increased revenue at Affirm, and enhanced Seventh Avenue into a venture-backed startup company. As the Associate Director of The Garage, he connects founders with a valuable global network of entrepreneurs and experts, and oversees programming that benefits students incubating at The Garage

In his presentation “Bicycle for the Mind,” he did a deep dive into Artificial Intelligence (AI), sharing background about the technology, the broad usage cases, and how to most effectively communicate with AI to best suit a person’s needs. He began with comparing AI to computers in the early 1980’s in stating that AI is also a “bicycle for the mind,” pulling from Steve Jobs’s famous quote. He explained how AI breaks down barriers of entry so that people who specialize in sales, marketing, and outreach can build a company more efficiently. He outlined that AI should be thought about as a tool to process information, give instructions and coaching, and to connect to external sources.

Brylan described AI as a tool that uses predictive technology to formulate a reasonable response for any given question. AI is a powerful tool that can follow instructions, be multi-modal, and continuously improve through user input. However, human judgement is still key in making decisions. AI as a tool can be used to decrease the need to invest in humans for creating solutions, but expertise and experience is still needed to judge whether a solution is appropriate or if it needs editing. Therefore, Brylan introduced the concept of becoming good managers to provide AI the context and instructions it needs to succeed.

Brylan explained that to be a good manager, the user needs to provide a format, context, and instructions. He explained that to most effectively format a prompt, the user should provide explicit instructions and parameters on what they want the AI to produce. Further, giving the AI an example of what to do, with a one-shot or a few-shot method, helps the AI to understand exactly what the user wants.

Finally, Brylan introduced the concept of leverage. He expanded on the idea of using AI for vector databases, which treat a company database as a source of “truths” to help users find relevant data without having to combine and analyze data themselves. He then explores using APIs with AI, which allows users to connect with tools such as Stripe, Twitter, and Shopify.

Brylan ended his presentation by explaining the next steps that Residents should take to incorporate AI into their respective companies. He emphasized how important AI is in doing more time-intensive tasks and letting humans focus on playing to the company’s strengths. Brylan concludes that by letting AI take care of things that it does best at, humans can shorten the timeline for goals and focus more time on perfecting what the company is good at.

Brylan also provided opportunities for residents to test sample prompts and play around with large language models to see how optimizing the prompt can provide better results. With this presentation, Residents were able to conceptualize methods in which AI can fit into their company’s workflow.

You can chat more with Brylan by scheduling office hours here.

About the Author

Jake Noda ’27 is a Mechanical Engineering major from Pineville, LA, working as a Student Aide at The Garage. He is excited to learn new skills and apply them to real-world projects.