As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Krish Ramineni. Krish is the co-founder & CEO of an AI startup in San Francisco. At Fireflies, their team of machine learning engineers has built a voice intelligence platform that can analyze conversations like sales and support calls along with curating important knowledge across every meeting room in the workplace. Before founding Fireflies, Krish was one of the youngest product managers at Microsoft working on customer analytics. Krish graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
While working at Microsoft, I had a chance to interact with many NLP and Data Science teams. One of the projects I was fortunate enough to work on was around how to quantify customer feedback that was coming from hundreds of different channels for our products. When I left Microsoft, I was actually on my way to grad school at Cambridge in the UK, but this idea of unlocking the gold buried inside conversations kept coming back to me. I met with my friend Sam Udotong who was finishing up at MIT, and we started hashing out what would be the framework for what Fireflies is today. We moved our base to San Francisco and had never looked back since.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
When I was 15 years old, I wrote in an inventor notebook some of the things I wanted to work on. A lot of the inspirations came from movies like Iron Man. This smart computer assistant called Jarvis helps Iron Man throughout the movie. I came across this notebook a few months ago and was very amused to realize that our AI assistant Fred is basically Jarvis.
Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?
Imagine having an AI assistant that sits in meetings and takes notes automatically on your behalf. It gives your sales reps suggestions while they have calls and helps pull up relevant information and reports in the meeting room while your team is having a discussion. Voice intelligent systems like SIRI and Cortana have proved some of this in our homes. This technology is going to dramatically augment the workplace, and we are excited to be working on it.
How do you think this will change the world?
A third of our time is spent constantly doing administrative work and data entry. A voice assistant like Fireflies will significantly free us up to do more meaningful work. When everything is captured, we will also have perfect memory. I am now able to recall specific things I said in a meeting one year ago down to the exact line thanks to Fireflies. Fireflies will be everyone’s secondary brain to remember and recall their conversations.
Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?
There will be many data that is going to be captured from conversations that will help us do our jobs better. We need to make sure it is a tool to help assist us at work. We don’t want it to turn into big brother or something that invades on privacy. Transparency is important, but with this new visibility into your organization comes greater responsibility to ensure privacy.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
Voice technology and machine learning have made leaps and bounds in the last five years. This would not be possible a decade ago or even 1–2 years back. We’ve been training our system on millions of conversational data points teaching Fireflies to identify important pieces of information from calls.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
Fireflies is naturally viral. Once you bring this AI assistant into the meeting room, others on your team will be curious and then start inviting Fred to their meetings. Fred, our AI, can be in a million different meetings at once. If we reach a critical mass of users within organizations, you start seeing the viral effect.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?
We need to learn to leverage AI and tech to constantly update our skill sets in the workplace. While automation completes mundane and repetitive tasks, we humans have learned to make important decisions, use data, and be creative. Those skills will always be valued in the workplace.
Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?
I would invest in different forms of robotic process automation. Voice AI is one form of RPA, but there are more like computer vision that can help complete repetitive tasks and save countless hours for the workforce.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
From everything from design to engineering, I’ve been driven by the philosophy that less is more. You don’t want to complicate the user experience for customers. Take a look at the minimalistic approach that Apple takes to its products. Our job is not to build 100’s of features and only have customers use 10% of that. It’s more important to pick the few that will count and build a rich experience around them.
I’ve also been driven by the philosophy that intuition for building products is only a proxy. Product development needs to be more scientific, and data should be used to make decisions instead of just gut feelings.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?
Enterprises are sitting on a gold mine of conversational data. Fireflies shine a light on that data to help your company build better products, close more sales, and bring your entire org around the voice of the customer.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.