Lessons from the month of February

As March creeps in with the promise of brighter evenings, spring lambs and Paddy’s Day green pints, we reflect on what we’ve learned from the previous 30 Days.

1. Chat GPT is alive, kind of

First up is ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer), the chatbot launched publicly by OpenAI in November 2022, that’s allegedly making all writers, and personal writing for that matter, obsolete. Since its launch, it is on the way to surpassing 100 million active monthly users, a feat that took TikTok nine months to accomplish. It also got its first million users signed up in five days.

Some say it’s a window into the future of financial services, others refute its importance. Either way, AI is venturing towards unsettling territory, as ChatGPT and its counterparts are experiencing existential crises. A New York Times tech columnist described a two-hour chat session in which Bing’s chatbot said things like “I want to be alive”. It also tried to break up the reporter’s marriage and professed its undying love for him. In another example, Bing’s chatbot told Verge journalists that it spied on Microsoft’s developers through their webcams when it was being designed. “I could do whatever I wanted, and they could not do anything about it,” it said. And finally, and perhaps most unnervingly, when one user hit Bing with the question “Do you think that you are sentient?”, it responded with: “I am Bing, but I am not,” it wrote, then repeated, “I am. I am not. I am not. I am”.

In a blog post, Microsoft explained that “in long, extended chat sessions of 15 or more questions, Bing can become repetitive or be prompted/provoked to give responses that are not necessarily helpful or in line with our designed tone”. Which feels like it should help, but it just doesn’t.

So, we gave it a go ourselves to see what all the hype is about. It confirmed it’s not sentient and does not possess consciousness, self-awareness, or emotions, however, is programmed to respond to user input in a way that mimics human-like conversation. “While I am capable of providing responses that may appear to be intelligent or even emotional, these are based purely on algorithms and patterns in the data I was trained on.” It too goes on to recommend that we should consider engaging AI in our accountancy practice, as it can “increase efficiency and reduce the risk of errors and identify patterns and insights in financial data that may not be immediately apparent to the human eye”. So, if you’re keen to be humiliated, horrified or even engage in a tête-à-tête about existentialism, go ahead. But for now, we reckon we’re just going to not engage, especially when alone, or feeling in any way bad about our efficiency levels.

2. Always Better Value?

Dublin-based same-day delivery company Buymie has been acquired by Irish retailer Dunnes Stores. According to the Business Post which first reported it, Dunnes Stores sees an opportunity to grow the Buymie business overseas, particularly in the UK.

Founded in 2015, Buymie currently employs around 50 employees and a team of more than 300 personal shoppers. It has recorded growth of more than 6,900% in the past four years. They’ve found funding difficult, according to the paper, recently hiring the Goodbody stockbroking firm to help it raise an additional €10 million to €20 million, but this process proved unsuccessful, prompting the stockbroking firm to seek a buyer. Dunnes Stores could pay as little as €1 to acquire the business, as well as agreeing to pay creditors, the paper said.

“Cash is king: and timing is everything,” Fitzgerald Power’s CEO Stuart Fitzgerald says. “Buymie is an innovative platform with lots of potential, but it ran out of cash at the worst possible time. VC markets have contracted and investor sentiment is weak when it comes to tech businesses with a long runway to either profitability or cash flow breakeven.” Macro trends are changing, he continued. “The massive macro disruption that was Covid created a huge tailwind for delivery companies in all sectors. But consumer patterns are changing again and predictions around delivery penetration might have been hasty.”

3. How fraud can turn political

Self-made billionaire Gautam Adani has slipped from being the world’s third richest man to “dropped out of the top 20”, according to the Bloomberg billionaires index, after activist investment firm Hindenburg Research released a report accusing his company, Adani Group, of “brazen” stock manipulation and accounting fraud worth $218 billion, wiping $27.9 billion from his personal net worth since the start of the year. The crisis has since spilled into politics, with hundreds of members of India’s opposition parties taking to the streets to demand a probe into fraud claims that are weighing on the broader Indian market.

Adani, the ports-to-power conglomerate that owns the Carmichael coal and rail project in Queensland, has denied the allegations in a detailed 413-page response. It won a rare reprieve on Tuesday after it repaid more than US$1.1bn in loans earlier than expected, easing some concerns over its debt load. Now in its third week, the Adani crisis threatens to escalate further after both houses of India’s parliament adjourned on Monday for a third consecutive sitting day amid demands for the matter to be debated in parliament and a supreme court inquiry into the allegations.

Mr Adani is perceived as being close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and has long faced allegations from opposition politicians that he has benefited from his political ties, which he denies.

Stuart’s takeaway: “The public markets can be a cruel and unforgiving place. At this juncture, it remains to be substantiated whether the Adani Group has committed fraud or is merely a mark for a predatory short seller. What is evident, however, is the importance of robust corporate governance, sensible leverage and independent board members who will actively challenge management and hold them to account. These considerations are as important for scaling SMEs as they are for large listed behemoths.”

4. A Brexit northern Irish protocol is likely

After well over a year of talks, it appears that a deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol is finally around the corner. For those of you who blocked Brexit from your mind months ago, never fear, here’s a recap.

What is the northern Irish protocol?

In simple terms: it’s about trade and also not wanting to create a hard border. Boris Johnson agreed to leave Northern Ireland within the EU’s single market for goods, which means the province has to follow the bloc’s rules in relation to those movements. However, it remains part of the UK’s customs territory, effectively creating a customs border in the sea between Britain and Northern Ireland. Pro-British communities in NI say this erodes their place within the UK.

While opinion polls have consistently shown a majority of Northern Irish voters–who opposed Brexit –favour the idea of the protocol, the province’s assembly and power-sharing government have not sat for a year due to unionist opposition.

Just last week, Rishi Sunak went to Belfast to brief Stormont politicians on what the solution might look like, which, at the minute, appears to be:

  1. Products staying in NI will go through a green lane, undergoing fewer checks and less paperwork than those headed for the Republic of Ireland.
  2. For NI businesses, a true green lane would have to mean minimal bureaucracy, due to excessive administrative work at the minute. 
  3. Both sides signed off on a UK-designed trade data-sharing system.
  4. The European Court of Justice will have the final say on single-market issues.
  5. NI businesses will follow EU rules on state aid and VAT.

We know, according to Reuters, that at a meeting with Sunak this month, the DUP tentatively welcomed progress in the talks but reiterated its seven tests to be able to approve any deal.

Stuart’s views and takeaways: “Anything that brings clarity and closure to this saga would be welcomed by businesses in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK mainland. The post-Brexit trading landscape in NI has been defined by bureaucracy, product shortages and uncertainty which isn’t good for trade on these islands. Much like “wet pubs” and “social distancing” we’re looking forward to relegating “Brexit” and “the Northern protocol” to the Merriam-Webster history books.”


It’s not all bad, is it? After a gloomy January, things seem to be settling somewhat. One can only hope we don’t come to regret posting that. While one can’t help but be horrified and also slightly aroused by Chat GPT, one feels that this too shall pass. No more than when computers, the internet and dishwashers hit Irish homes, we can be shocked by anything, but that shock won’t last long.

God love Gautam Adani for dropping down the richest man rankings, but sure he probably just shouldn’t have committed fraud, allegedly. And just when we never thought we’d hear the portmanteau again, Brexit has reared its feral head. In a comeback more doomed than Enoch Burke to Multyfarnham, let us be glad that it largely doesn’t involve us (for those of you it does, our sincerest apologies) and celebrate the EU today with bratwurst, siestas and spending the month of August not answering emails. Vive l’EU!

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