Edmonton Startup using AI to Fix ‘Broken Meetings’

Meetings cost time and money to run, and many of them are unnecessary, says Testfire Labs CEO Dave Damer. His solution: the company’s AI assistant, Hendrix.ai. Currently in its beta test phase, it takes a meeting’s minutes, noting questions, answers and action items by listening via microphone. Its meeting summaries leave out “chit chat” for […]

Meetings cost time and money to run, and many of them are unnecessary, says Testfire Labs CEO Dave Damer. His solution: the company’s AI assistant, Hendrix.ai.

Currently in its beta test phase, it takes a meeting’s minutes, noting questions, answers and action items by listening via microphone. Its meeting summaries leave out “chit chat” for clarity. Exact transcripts aren’t kept for reasons of confidentiality, said Damer, who founded the company in 2017.

“The demands to do more with less in modern business keep increasing,” Damer said. “AI gives us an opportunity to legitimately take things off peoples’ hands that are generally mundane tasks so they can focus on higher-value work.”

Hendrix.ai also tracks attendance rates, numbers of last-minute meetings and meeting lengths.

On May 25, Testfire Labs won a Startup Canada regional innovation award for its work on Hendrix.ai. Startup Canada CEO Victoria Lennox said the adjudicators liked how Testfire Labs integrated AI into audio-to-text technology with Hendrix.ai.

“There’s a lot of audio-to-text tools and they’re growing more and more,” Lennox said. What made Hendrix.ai different was its focus on meetings.

Damer’s goal is for Hendrx.ai to reach companies with more than 1,000 staff. It’s being tested by 100 organizations in its beta phase, including the City of Victoria and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. Torsten Prues of NAIT’s information technology department said he’s been using the system with a team of six since January.

“What made us interested (in using Hendrix.ai) was that NAIT is very meeting-heavy, and people don’t like taking minutes,” he said.

Edmonton: ‘On the cusp’ of tech

Damer graduated from the University of Alberta in 1991 as a computer engineer and has 25 years of experience in the technology industry. He calls Edmonton a good home for a tech startup, with an industry that’s “on the cusp.”

Before Testfire Labs, Damer founded ThinkTel Communications Ltd. in 2003, and spent 14 years there. ThinkTel is now the business services division of Distributel, an independent communications company.

Damer started Testfire Labs as a more creative project. Currently valued at $5 million, with 10 employees, Damer hopes to grow the business to $20 million next year. He sees Hendrix.ai becoming an asset to workplaces as more tasks — like note taking — become automated.

Randy Goebel, a professor at the University of Alberta and expert in natural language processing, said applying the science of natural language understanding to everyday use is “extremely difficult in practice.” The science is there, he said, but businesses like Hendrix are challenged with translating that science into something people will pay for.

“They provide a line of sight to scientists to add value to their work,” said Goebel, who is also a researcher at the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute.

While the system is being honed for summarizing meetings, Damer plans to include more features that track whether certain speakers dominate meetings, gauge what tones discussions take, and find possible areas where different teams can collaborate.

“You can do so much more than notes,” he said. “We can do tone analysis on whether it was a positive, negative or neutral conversation. Was there joy in the words, or was there fear. What are the emotions that are being expressed.”

Read the source article in the Edmonton Journal.

Allure Security Closes $5.3 Million in Seed Round Funding

Allure Security today announced the close of a $5.3 million seed funding round. (Allure executives are shown above.) The company will use the investment to further innovate its industry-first data loss detection and response (DDR) platform and to continue to add key personnel to its new Boston-area headquarters. Allure’s first-ever VC round is led by […]

Allure Security today announced the close of a $5.3 million seed funding round. (Allure executives are shown above.) The company will use the investment to further innovate its industry-first data loss detection and response (DDR) platform and to continue to add key personnel to its new Boston-area headquarters.

Allure’s first-ever VC round is led by Boston-based Glasswing Ventures, the early-stage venture capital firm dedicated to investing in the next generation of AI technology companies that address the connected world and the security of the ecosystem. Glasswing Ventures Managing Partner Rick Grinnell, best known for his investments in EqualLogic (acquired by Dell), Prelert (acquired by Elastic), and Resilient Systems (acquired by IBM), has also joined Allure Security’s Board of Directors.

In addition to Glasswing Ventures, the team of VC partners in this early-stage round includes some of the industry’s most respected investment gurus with long track records of success:
Greycroft of New York and Los Angeles, co-founded by Alan Patricof, Ian Sigalow and Dana Settle (Portfolio companies include Shipt, acquired by Target for $550 million, and The Huffington Post, acquired by AOL for $315 million)
Zetta Venture Partners of San Francisco, co-founded by Mark Gorenberg (Portfolio companies include Domo and InsideSales)
Portage Partners of New York City, founded by Michael Leffell (Portfolio companies include cybersecurity startups Cyactive, acquired by Paypal, Morphisec and Virtru)

“Allure is the newest member of Glasswing Ventures’ world-class portfolio of innovative companies using artificial intelligence (AI) to solve widespread problems with connecting and securing data,” said Rick Grinnell. “I think I speak for all of the investors in this round when I say that Allure’s unique approach to combating data breaches, which stems from years of research and development, serves as a strong foundation for Allure Security’s DDR platform and made them a highly attractive target for investment.”

Allure Security was founded in a Columbia University research lab by a team led by Dr. Salvatore Stolfo, a renowned AI and data security scientist. The company was awarded multiple contracts totaling more than $10 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and other government agencies to develop innovative technology to address insider threats, nation-state attacks, and widespread data loss. Today, Allure’s team holds more than eight U.S. patents on its beaconing, deception, and behavior analytics technology and is blazing a trail by creating a new category of enterprise cybersecurity: data loss detection and response.

“Allure is offering something different from other popular technologies for keeping important or sensitive data within the boundaries set by an enterprise,” explained Rik Turner, principal analyst at Ovum. “Alongside users, endpoints and networks, data itself needs protecting. Since much of it resides in documents, technology that enables enterprises to track it once it has left their infrastructure and block inappropriate access to it is clearly of increasing value, as ever more business moves online.”

In November, Allure Security announced the addition of CEO Mark Jaffe, an executive with previous leadership experience as the CEO of security startup Prelert. Since his appointment, Jaffe has been instrumental in fundraising for the company and further steering the commercialization of the Allure platform with a focus on large enterprises, financial services, healthcare and industrial markets.

“With the new investment from our highly-respected and well-connected early-stage VC partners, Allure has the depth and breadth of capital and industry expertise to accelerate the growth of what we have been building since Sal Stolfo and his team started their work in the research labs of Columbia University,” said Mark Jaffe, CEO of Allure Security. “Our platform brings to market a radically new approach to solving the enterprise’s greatest security challenge: data loss. For far too long, breaches have gone undetected because businesses had no way to track documents outside the enterprise network, and no way of knowing where those documents end up. This seed round enables us to continue to make enhancements to our platform and rapidly scale the company by adding strategic hires to support increased demand for the product.”

Learn more about Allure Security.