YPO.org
   

Meet Your First Digital Executive Assistant

“There is a 100 percent chance that people will use AI (artificial intelligence) in the workplace to help them to do their jobs more efficiently,” says CEO and Founder of Jane.aiDavid Karandish. “I can’t guarantee Jane is going to be the biggest, or most successful in achieving this — we’re trying our hardest — but I know for certain that it’s the future way companies will be operating.”

Founded in early 2017 by Karandish, the former Answers.com CEO, the St. Louis-based Jane.ai (Jane) officially launched 12 June 2018 after raising USD 8.4 million in Series A funding from a Midwest network of private and angel investors. Similar to Siri or Alexa but for companies, Jane is an AI platform with secure access to all apps, documents and institutional knowledge. Acting as a virtual team member, Jane is able not just to access information, but mine it and make it accessible in the simplest possible way, for example without any software installation or logins to remember (more likely to forget). But perhaps Jane’s most compelling trait is her ability to learn — once you tell her something, it becomes forever part of her knowledge.

“Most AI platforms will come back to you with an answer instantly if they know it, but if they don’t, you’re out of luck,” explains Karandish, conjuring up one too many frustrating memories of one-way conversations with AI. “If you ask Jane a question and she doesn’t know the answer, she’ll send it to her co-pilot — someone in HR or IT — who can respond to the question and answer it, which then becomes part of Jane’s knowledgebase forever after.”

Like her work, the name Jane is full of meaning: as an acronym — the Joy of Accessing Nearly Everything — she sums up the elation of a workforce freed from the yoke of repetitive questioning; as a tool whose abilities evolve as the company evolves, she represents a symbiotically productive future with a human touch.

“We wanted our AI to represent someone that might sit next to you at work; someone you could grab a beer with,” explains Karandish, who unsurprisingly has three daughters at home who were a large part of the naming inspiration. “A lot of digital assistants stop at that level — assistants — but while Jane may start at the bottom, over time she will climb up the corporate ladder. My vision for Jane is that she eventually becomes your first digital executive.”

study conducted by communications specialists Fonality in concert with Webtorials, shows that employees in small and medium-sized businesses spend half their work day on “necessary, yet unproductive tasks, including routine communications and filtering incoming information and correspondence.” They spend more than a third of their time finding information, or scheduling meetings, and another 14 percent of their day duplicating information like forwarding emails or phone calls to confirm messages were received.

“Pitting humans against machines is a fundamental design flaw in the way people are thinking about AI platforms,” says Karandish. “The goal is for people and machines to work together in order to free people up to do what they’re best at — creative work and solving complex problems. Your company intelligence exists in three places — your apps, your docs and the minds of the workforce and you have to be able to plug into all three. With a common interface across the organization, employees no longer have to spend their time searching for answers and instead, can get back to doing what they were hired to do.”

The potential that could be mined by freeing up over half of one’s work day by embracing AI like Jane seems less like a “should I?” at this point and more like a, “When can I start?” In cinematic terms, consider it akin to the movie “Limitless,” just instead of eating a mysterious pill to help you access 100 percent of your brain while bad guys chase after you, you get to increase your organization’s productivity with the support of a meticulously designed AI system.

Bad guys not included.

Shared system of success

While initially Karandish and his business partner, Chris Sims, started their incubator — Equity.com — as a way to build Jane, they have since turned the company into a multi-stage investment firm that invests in and grows tech-based companies particularly in St. Louis and presently moving across the United States. In addition to Jane, Equity.com has launched a nonprofit called Create A Loop (which teaches kids computer science), Prepare.ai (a non-profit that provides educational resources and strategic guidance about AI to individuals, communities, and companies) and invested in the on-line tutoring platform Varsity Tutors, headed up by YPO member Chuck Cohn.

“Our goal is to provide an ecosystem that starts, invests in and grows companies,” explains Karandish. “From startups to proven organizations to nonprofits, we want to create a synergy that allows those interested in helping transform the way we work and live, to develop and succeed.”

Deborah Stoll’s work as a journalist has been featured in The Economist’s online magazine, More Intelligent Life, in LA Weekly and its food blog, Squid Ink, as well as on the music site Buzzbands LA. Her short stories have appeared in the Los Angeles quarterly Slake and the literary website Fresh Yarn. As a musician, Stoll’s songs have been featured on American Idol, Glee and CSI: Miami, and her collective work as a content creator and animator has more than 1 million views on YouTube.