Interview with Dave Damer

WORKING INNOVATIVELY IN A DIGITAL WORLD

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Dave is a computer engineer and proven tech entrepreneur with over 27 years of business leadership experience, 18 of which have been spent building startupsIn 2017, Dave founded Testfire Labs, a software company that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to build productivity solutions that modernize the way people work, so they can achieve more, faster. Testfire’s flagship product iHendrix.aian AI-assistant that transcribes meeting summaries and action items, audits meeting history, and drops it all into a simple, searchable dashboard, for unprecedented organization and productivity insights. In 2018, Hendrix.ai won the Startup Canada Prairies Region Innovation Award.

1) You are working at Testfire Labs, an award-winning AI start-up based in Edmonton. Can you tell us more about your company and what you do?

Testfire Labs is developing the next generation of business productivity tools that leverage applied artificial intelligence along with cutting edge application development techniques to build capacity and augment existing knowledge workers.

Since our inception in March of 2017, Testfire has grown from a solo operation to a team of 14 talented individuals, we were named a Top Startup to Watch by Startup Edmonton, and we were awarded the 2018 Startup Canada Prairies Region Innovation Award.

Testfire’s flagship products is Hendrix.ai, an AI-assistant that transcribes meeting summaries and action items, audits meeting history, and drops it all into a simple, searchable dashboard, for unprecedented organization and productivity insights. Since launching to public beta in the fall of 2017, more than 100 companies of all sizes and across all industries have signed up for Hendrix.

Testfire Labs is currently actively exploring 6 additional product opportunities as a direct result of Hendrix.ai and its capabilities, with plans to rapidly scale to commercialize multiple products across a variety of industries and applications.

 

2) How does Testfire contribute to working innovatively in a digital world?

One of the reasons I started Testfire Labs was I was finding people were just overwhelmed with all the interactions they had to deal with on a day-to-day basis, and when I saw the potential of what was happening in the artificial intelligence space, I knew there were opportunities to leverage that technology to help people be more engaged in their daily activity and be more focused while transitioning priorities throughout the day. In order to accomplish this, we’re building both products and expertise in the areas of voice assistants, chat bots, and summarization of data.

 

3) You have developed the artificial intelligent assistant “Hendrix.ai”. At the moment it is being tested by companies in meetings, where it takes notes by listening in via microphone. How do you think this will impact a company’s productivity and efficiency?

Meeting ROI is steadily declining and its estimated approx. $37 billion in salaries are wasted in ineffective meetings each year. Meetings are due for an upgrade, and that’s where Hendrix comes in.

While Hendrix does transcribe meeting minutes, it goes above and beyond the purely mechanical tasks of basic voice interaction and simple date-point transcription that competitors provide. Professionals in almost every organization participate in countless meetings every week, with no way to easily keep track of their notes and action items, recall key meeting details, or understand their meeting history.

Hendrix not only transcribes meeting minutes and action items, but also provides users the ability to edit the content he does provide, ensuring all participants walk away from the meeting on the same page, understanding exactly what was discussed, what needs to be done, and when its due.

The dashboard organization features ensure all meeting data is easily accessible anytime, from anywhere, improving institutional memory while employees are away, in the event they leave the organization, etc. Additionally, Hendrix uses machine learning to analyze user meeting history, providing valuable insights into meeting frequency, length, etc., as well as surfaces meeting trends and topics for better recall of key meeting details.

 

4) Are there any problems that teams may encounter while working with AI assistants?

The primary consideration when selecting AI-driven tools needs to be the predominant areas of inefficiency for that individual organization. While some AI assistants, like Hendrix, are useable and beneficial by anyone, across any organization, based on their broad application, others are quite niche in their scope.

Leveraging any technology, including AI assistants, for the simple sake of it will only serve to create greater inefficiency. In order for businesses to get the most out of technology, they need to truly understand where their greatest inefficiencies lie, then reconsider their operations and processes so that a partnership between both tools and human resources is created for the benefit of that business’s bottom line.

 

5) Even in a digital world, companies are still being led by humans. However, AI is taking over more and more tasks. Where do you see the limits for its use?

AI has obviously ignited fear in some industries and in some people, that machines will take over their jobs and they’ll be viewed as unnecessary, but I don’t see it that way. AI is really about giving employees the space and the tools they need to be more effective in their jobs.

Machines may be taking away menial, repetitive tasks, but what they’re not taking away human skills – skills like leadership, teamwork, creativity or emotional intelligence. That’s the limit for AI; it‘s not meant to replace us, it’s meant to partner with us to support us so we can do so much more.

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