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AI-powered workplace team member Jane.ai launches with $8.4 million

Jane also has a human element that will answer questions and help the AI learn quicker

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
June 12, 2018
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/4ba7

There's a fundamental problem in the workplace: a lack of access to basic information for employees, causing them waste a big chunk of their time trying to find answers to that they should have immediately at their disposal. On any given day, up to 35 percent of an employee's time is spent looking for this information, which could be spent on more important tasks.

As with so many problems we have now, the solution comes in the form of artificial intelligence and specifically in Jane.ai, an AI-powered work assistant that can easily answer employee questions about their work environment by giving them easy access to company information.

On the Tuesday, the company announced its launch, along with $8.4 million in funding. The investors in the round were not named, but were labeled as "a Midwest network of private and angel investors." The company had previously raised a $1.5 million round of funding in January of last year.

"Jane is an enterprise AI platform and the whole idea is we want to take all of your company’s intelligence and make it accessible in a simple, intuitive chat interface," David Karandish, founder and CEO of Jane, told me in an interview. Karandish is also the former CEO of Answers.com.

Company intelligence, he said, is generally housed in three areas: a company's apps, their documents and the minds of their employees, and Jane is the only one that accesses all of them. 

"There are a lot of other AI platforms out there that will tap into one of those areas; we are taking a very strongly held point of view that AI and the enterprise should be comprehensive. You should be able to access the intelligence across your apps, your docs and your team."

Jane is "interface agnostic," meaning it can work on a variety of platforms, such as Skype for Business, Slack, an Internet webpage or a customer facing website. Employees can even send an email and get a response back that way.

There are typically three types of departments within an organization that would use Jane: human resources, IT and customer success, and the use cases will vary depending on which department it in.

For example, in HR, Jane might be used for things like on boarding or pulling in HRIS data, which can include employee benefits, as well as on the careers website, so it could answer the questions people would have when they want to join the team. Within IT, Jane typically works on things like the help desk, and helping out with new systems adoption. 

"When you think about the new systems adoption, and when people are rolling out Workday or Office 365 or some new new platform, there are a lot of questions that people have, there are a lot of ways of doing business that change, so we want to be there to help IT teams address that," said Karandish.

On the customer success side, Jane can help the support team with questions and comments and inquiries that they might have on their customer facing website or can help them pull information from apps like Salesforce, or whatever CRM they're using. 

The company has done a handful of pilots so far, and has eight multi-year SaaS deals. Current customers include Washington University in St. Louis, recruiting firm Kelly Mitchell and Schaeffer Oil.

The plan with this current funding is to expand its team, which currently consists of 35 members, with a double that number in the next 12 to 18 months, as well as to add more integrations onto the platform. 

"We take the philosophy that there are six major areas just about every companies has some usage in: their e-mail, calendar, HRIS system, CRM, ticketing or help desk platform and then the cloud drive. Initially we started building app integrations within those, we call them ‘the big six services.’ Along the way we signed up clients who have other cloud-based integrations as well. When that integration was at a good size and scale we said, ‘Let’s get that onto the Jane platform.’ An example of that would be one of our clients is a large, regional mortgage firm in 34 states, and they’re using Jane to go pull loan origination information, regulatory information, directly from their thumb, which they could never do before," Karadish explained.

"So, one of the things we want to do with the additional capital is continue to build out our dev and product teams so that we can build more integrations so we can help more make even more company intelligence accessible in the simplest possible way."

What sets Jane apart

With all of the hype around chatbots now, there's a lot of competition for attention. Among the well known platforms out there already, Karandish sees Jane as being somewhere in between an Alexa and a Watson.

"With Alexa you’ve got an out of box solution which is great for getting up and running but it doesn’t personalize well to an organization. On the flip side, IBM can come in with a very customized solution for their engagements, but it can months to get up and running, it can be in the seven figure plus range in terms of pricing, and it’s not really a rinse, wash and repeat. We sit somewhere in the middle, where we have the configurability and the personalization of a product like IBM’s Watson, but we have a lot of the out of boxness you’d find from an Amazon Alexa," he said.

What really sets Jane apart, though, is that there's a human element to it as well.

"Think of us like Siri or Alexa but applied to the workplace. The big difference, though, is if I asked Siri a question and she doesn’t know the answer, if I come back five minutes later, she still doesn’t know the answer. If I come back 10 minutes later, a day later, even a month later, she’s not really learning that quickly, or at least it doesn’t seem to happen like that not across the major areas you might ask. For us, we don’t think that’s an acceptable time series for a business that’s moving quickly and trying to be super helpful. So if you ask Jane a question and she doesn’t know the answer, we will route that question to our co-pilot platform, where a person can go in and say, ‘I know the answer to that question,’ and when they respond to that inquiry, it gets automatically sent back to the user, and then it becomes part of Jane’s ongoing knowledge base. So Jane is learning the ins and outs of the organization every single day with each inquiry that she receives," said Karandish.

"Our goal is to make it so that you never have to respond to the same inquiry twice. We want take the questions and the ideas and the inquiries you’re already getting and, rather than have to keep responding to them over and over again, we want to make it so that if you respond to those in Jane, Jane learns it and it now becomes part of the knowledge base for the whole organization."

That also allows Jane to have a better learning curve than a lot of the chatbots out there right now, according to Karandish,

"We firmly believe that the best way to judge an AI is its ability to show a trajectory of learning. The same way you raise a child, you look at the trajectory on how a child learns over time, I think it’s very similar, where AIs like Jane can continue to pick up skills, and continue to pick up knowledge, but if you can bring people in the loop, you can accelerate that with the right combination of a platform that organizes the knowledge, as well as a platform that helps connect people to the knowledge that needs to be managed."

The future of AI and Jane

While there has been a lot of buzz around chatbots lately, thanks to Alexa and Siri, and the natural language processing technology that powers is getting better and better in terms of being able to understand what a person means when they want to converse, most of that focus has been on the consumer facing side. 

AI in the enterprise is, in some ways, easier than AI for the consumer, Karandish said, and that is allowing Jane to flourish. 

"We’ve found this really nice niche in the chat space where a lot of same questions that people have in business A are a lot of the same questions that people have in business B and C. The responses might be different to those inquiries, but the fundamental intent of what people are trying to do, whether it’s onboading a new team member, whether it’s figuring out what do when your laptop dies, whether it’s getting a customer the information they need to make a purchase, that intent is usually not customer specific, but intent is something that you see across just about every organization," he said.

"I think that five years from now what you’ll find is that every company is going to be in the process of adopting AI technology, if they’re not already, and what you’re going to find is that the nature of work is going to fundamentally change when you can get access to company information on demand, on your mobile phone, without having to log-in to some archaic system. I think it’s going to fundamentally change the way that we work."

AI, however, is just the platform that Jane uses for its ultimate goal: to make companies, and their employees, more efficient.

"When we started we said, 'We really want to make good teams better,' and we believe that we can do that through AI. AI is the vehicle, or the mechanism, to do that, but our goal wasn’t to create an AI company to create an AI company, our goal was to help transform the workplace and make the repetitive, frustrating, annoying aspects of work go away," he said.

"Our goal is to help people be as productive as possible, whether they’re your team members or your customers. We see Jane taking on a bigger and bigger set of what we could call 'level zero support tasks,' whether it’s in HR, IT or customer success. Today, most of the inquiries going to Jane are people asking her do something for them, or pulling some information."

So what will Jane look like five years from now? Karandish expects her to have moved up in the organization, becoming a more vital team member, and one that is actively helping out without even needing to be asked. 

"Five years from now, you’re going to see Jane reaching out to you as the team member, as much as you’re reaching out to her. Whether it’s moving an appointment, or updating your information on Salesforce, or connecting to your ticketing platforms. I really see her, in the future, as moving up the corporate ladder where she may start out doing more administrative functions, but over time she becomes more of an analyst for the company, and then as she works her way up she becomes more like a Director or a VP in an organization."


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Description: Jane.ai is building an artificial intelligence platform to transform the modern workforce. Think of it like a Siri or Alexa for work, but...