My computer science classes were too slow, so I dropped out to focus on my AI startup. Even my dad agreed.

My computer science classes were too slow, so I dropped out to focus on my AI startup. Even my dad agreed.
Automorphic's co-founders Maaher Gandhi, Govind Gnanakumar, and Mahesh Natamai.Govind Gnanakumar
  • Govind Gnanakumar enrolled at Georgia Tech in 2022 as a freshman majoring in computer science.
  • He said classes moved too slowly and he was more interested in pursuing his own interests.

This is an as-told-to essay based on an interview with Govind Gnanakumar, the cofounder of Automorphic. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I spent my senior year of high school thinking I'd study computer science, philosophy, and linguistics in college.

That last year of high school was a pretty exciting time where I essentially had infinite leeway to explore my interest in computer science. I spent a lot of it playing around, building, and learning in my free time. Essentially, I got used to moving very quickly.

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I ended up enrolling in Georgia Tech with plans to major in computer science. When I actually got there, though, I was pretty surprised by the slow pace of learning.

Don't get me wrong – I still think school is a fantastic way of structuring your life, and that it's valuable.


But when you've gotten used to moving fast you can start to feel a little stifled in school. You start to question whether you're really getting enough value from it.

Computer science, especially, is something you can learn anywhere. You don't need to act like a cloistered nun in academia to study computer science. You can read a textbook and build things yourself.

So, I didn't feel like I was getting much value out of class. I stopped going to classes as often. It all sort of reinforced itself.

At the same time, my friends and I were also building a bunch of things outside of class that were much more interesting.

AI is moving fast and that's exactly what our startup is about

I ended up applying f0r the winter intake for startup accelerator Y Combinator with two other Georgia Tech students — Mahesh Natamai, my randomly assigned roommate, and Maaher Gandhi, another student I met at a food stall on campus. There are a lot of very smart people at Georgia Tech, but few of them are entrepreneurial, so it was pretty fortuitous we found each other.

In our first application, we proposed a project for indexing your data across your personal apps. It was a compelling project, but we didn't articulate it well enough, and we didn't get accepted.


Our second try, though, was successful.

The startup we're building now is called Automorphic, and our goal is to help developers iterate and improve custom language models cheaply and efficiently.

Right now, people are using these huge models like GPT-4 that contain trillions of parameters. In the future, though, we imagine that people will want to run more task-specific models that are significantly smaller.

There are a couple of barriers. The first is that there is a lot of dark arts knowledge around how you train and fine-tune models. Your average JavaScript developer usually doesn't have an understanding of what's happening at the bleeding edge. So, we stay on top of it by reading the research, and presenting it in an accessible form.

The second problem here is that there's typically a pretty long feed-back loop to fine-tuning and training models. So our goal is to shrink that down from weeks or months to a matter of days.

If I was in pursuit of things moving faster and faster as a freshman at Georgia Tech, I'd say that now, I'm in the best possible place.


"Y Combinator is a good enough proxy for a degree"

Once we got accepted to Y Combinator in May, I had a discussion with my dad. He understood that I was passionate about what I was building with my other cofounders.

He even said "if I were you I'd go build your own startup."

And honestly, Y Combinator is a good enough proxy for a degree. In some sense, college is a focal point for talent, and one of the most talent-dense places you'll ever be is Y Combinator.

So, I told him that I was going to take a leave of absence from Georgia Tech. I don't have plans to go back, though, so it's safe to say I'm an official dropout.