Using AI To Protect Businesses And Employees Against Conflict And Violence With Ty Smith
Organizational leaders know that protecting the business and its employees is crucial for the company in the long term. They also recognize that AI plays an integral role in sales and business processes. Chad Burmeister talks with the Founder of CommSafe AI, Ty Smith, about the role of artificial intelligence in providing technical, logical solutions to protect businesses and employees. CommSafe AI is a California-based technology company with a specific focus on conflict and violence prevention. They believe that the more people you have in an organization, the greater the risk. In this episode, Ty Smith explains how his company helps protect the business as a whole and how they find innovative and proactive solutions in our world, where technology is rapidly growing. He also shares his background for us to understand how and why he took the career path he has now.
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Using AI To Protect Businesses And Employees Against Conflict And Violence With Ty Smith
I'm here with a cool guest, Ty Smith, who shares the name of my brother-in-law turns out, although unrelated and totally different people. Ty is the Founder of CommSafe AI. We're going to dig into some cool technology. When he started the company, who would have thought that the need for it is exactly square in the space of where the world is headed, it's a huge need. Ty, welcome to the show. I'm excited to dig into that.
I'm excited to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Tell us a little bit about the company first, and then I'm going to rewind the tape. We're going to go back to all the fun stuff early in the days, but what is Comm Safe do? Who do you work with?
CommSafe AI is a San Diego, California-based technology company with a specific focus in the area of conflict and violence prevention for the Department of Defense and large companies that have greater than 3,000 employees. We believe that the more human beings you put into an organization, the greater the risk. Every one of us comes with our own myriad of risk variables. Obviously, the more of us you put into one group, the higher the risk. What CommSafe AI is an AI-driven communication safety analysis software that 24/7 scrapes internal communications, email and chat.
It's like Outlook 365, G Suite, Slack, Microsoft teams, all of the above for negative sentiment and tone across communications and instances of toxic communication that could lead to workplace violence. Things like sexual harassment, bullying, Title VII, Title IX discrimination, violent extremism, anything around racial discrimination that happens within email and chat. Our solution will find it, flag it in the background as a toxic communication, and it will send out a nearly real-time alert to decision-makers, letting them know that this incident is happening in your organization right now. These are the next steps that we believe you should take in order to get ahead of this incident so that it doesn't remain a hidden liability to the organization.
I had a customer for about a year and a half there that monitors Google searches for similar terms even before hitting the enter button. Their main audience is campuses and K through 12 elementary, and it was very cool because they averted someone who was going to take their own life. I'm sure that's a very rewarding part of the job that you're able to do is help prevent tragedies. It's very Minority Report-ish. I'm sure you've seen that movie once or twice.
Every one of us comes with a myriad of risk variables that could affect an organization.
We get that a lot. We put a lot of work into messaging so that we can learn to understand at a deep and intimate level. What are the concerns that the individual employee has with their organization using this type of solution so that we understand how to avoid that perception? I don't look at this as being Big Brother or Minority Report-ish. I look at this as technology is advancing at a rapid pace. Unfortunately, that technology isn't being kept from bad actors that can use technology to drive their own agenda and hurt people. Therefore, we believe that it's up to organizational leaders to stay current as well regarding what are the technical logical solutions that are available to us to protect employees, the business, the business from the employees, all of the above.
We see our solution as the newest and most proactive solution on the market for organizations to do exactly that. It's certainly bleeding-edge innovation, but something that I think that we as a society of people have to keep in mind is that technology is rapidly growing. We're still at the very beginning of AI. We've got a very long way to go. It would be foolhardy of us as organizational leaders to ignore the adoption of new and innovative solutions in order to help keep our businesses and our employees safe when the bad actors out there are not ignoring these solutions.
The bad actors are a very small percent. There's a way I'm sure to keep the black box, so to speak, where it's not like we're going to go publish, “This person did this Slack post,” but you follow my drift there. It's not like you're going to go publish that out in front of everybody. You'll have the conversation and show the right escalation path. Let's have the HR director or the manager pull that person into the office, “What did you mean by this post?” If it's one isolated incident, then that's probably goes away, “You probably shouldn't do that anymore. Okay, got it,” but if it becomes an incident, I think of FedEx, I worked for right out of college. They had the incident where someone took over the plane with an ax.
If in this world, they were able to get a glimpse into what this person was thinking through his digital body language that would have been prevented or there was one school away from me in Colorado. There was a shooting and that impacted my daughter in a very negative way. How do they couch it now? They have three or four undercover officers that get to know the kids as intimately as possible. That's the flag and the leading indicator. We want that as parents, as students and that's very similar. Now, it's a new technological advancement. To me, it's the ethical side of who has access to the information? What do you do with it? Those are some of the things that I'm sure you're at the forefront of in a few years of doing this work.
Yeah, absolutely. We take privacy very seriously. Prior to building this solution, I personally interviewed at that time, more than 50 chief human resource officers and corporate counsel regarding our ideas about CommSafe.ai as a solution. We understood immediately that it doesn't matter what we think. We need to find out what the market thinks. We need to talk to customers, need to understand what they see as a value to the solution and how it should be built, integrate, be messaged, priced, all of the above. In total, I've done over 90 of those interviews so far. We talked to so many people because we knew that privacy was going to be an issue. We needed to learn how to navigate it successfully.
What we learned is that there are two sides to privacy. There's employee privacy, but the customer is solely responsible for employee privacy. According to law, we have nothing to do with that. We simply coach our companies to let employees know the why behind your use of this solution. If you're going to tell employees that you're using it, tell them why, and let them know that you're being proactive about their safety and security. You are not using the solution to spy on them. That's not how this solution works. There's no human being sitting behind a curtain and reading all of your emails, chat trafficking math.
Algorithms are doing the entire thing. The only time a human being gets involved is if you do something wrong over email or chat or someone else does something wrong to you over email or chat. What we've learned is that 9 times out of 10, human beings are not going to report even if they are the victim, if they believe they're going to remain anonymous, they are afraid. The other side of that is the privacy of client data. Client data is secure because we host the software, the solution in the AWS cloud. Client data is stored within a restricted virtual private cloud that only the application itself has access to. Our employees can't even access client data. We take privacy very seriously.
It's interesting because I remember there was this woman that I worked with that was in a different state. When I'd get on a WebEx meeting, probably several years ago, and I'm married a few years in, had my two kids, and she was doing inappropriate chat. You're like, “What is going on?” I remember telling the CEO, who I've known for multiple years, and I'm like, “You don't understand.” He's like, “Come on, Chad. It doesn't work that way.” It's like, “Read the texts,” and this would've put it above a threshold. It would have caused the employer to proactively put a damper on it, rather than me having to feel like, “Did I do something wrong here? No, I'm the director of sales for a tech company.”
It's a massive liability that's costing companies in the United States of America, $528 billion annually. We're talking about instances of sexual harassment, bullying, Title IX discrimination, all of the above. It's costing the US businesses nearly $600 billion a year in lost expenses and revenue. Here's how the numbers add up, in the wake of one of these incidents where you're talking about Title IX discrimination or sexual harassment. Employee's productivity decreases by approximately 50% and for up to 18 weeks post-incident. You want to talk about the financial liability this causes for companies. The average out-of-court settlement for a sexual harassment lawsuit is $500,000. The in-court settlement is $3 million per incident. It's a big problem, rapidly growing and getting worse as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic. We've seen massive spikes in cyberbullying, stalking, sexual harassment, and a myriad of other different risk variables that we have to concern ourselves with as we look into the future of work.
This is compelling. I'm excited to talk with you. Let's rewind the tape a little bit. It sounds like you did some cool work, but even if I go back before the cool work you did in San Diego and other places. When you were young, like 6, 7, 8, I like to expose that to the audience. You're a successful entrepreneur, have been in the military, like a lot of cool stuff. What got you up in the morning when you were younger? What was the spark with Ty Smith?
I was one of those lucky kids in that my family didn't have a lot. We were always poor, but we were always rich with love, kindness and servant leadership. Servant leadership was instilled in me at a very early age. I'm the oldest of five children, four now because I, unfortunately, lost my younger sister back in 2015, but my mom was a single parent. She was a police officer in one of the roughest cities in the United States of America in East St. Louis. Although we didn't have much, it was instilled in my brain at a very early age and very often that you are a protector of people. That's why God put you on this planet to protect other people that can't protect themselves. I never understood that as a little kid because I grew up being picked on and bullied all the time and beat up. Kids are mean.
It wasn't until I was going into my junior year of high school, where a couple of years before that I fell head over heels in love with the sport of wrestling, and turned out I was talented at it. That started to wake up this other side of me that I never knew was there. It has always been there. I never knew it was there. Wrestling started building this grit, perseverance, fire in my gut that propelled me through the rest of my life. It was as a kid that I started to discover that there's something different about you that causes you to run toward people that need help instead of away from danger. I discovered it as I got older, and joining the Navy and the SEAL team has helped me to hone who I am inherent.
With technology rapidly growing and advancing, AI has provided us with more tools and solutions for our businesses.
I can hear to protect and serve, what's one of those movies from the ‘80s or ‘90s that's so cool. It's Robocop. That's neat that your mom handed that down and that's the thing I'm learning. I do a podcast also called Living A Better Story. We go into the personal side of the gut punch that we all experience in life and we try to expose what was the silver lining? I heard you say, “I was blessed to grow up in a poor area.” Most people wouldn't put those two in the same sentence, but you look at people like my dad, who lived in a poor area. The closer you are to that level of learning the grind, I think the more you appreciate what we have here on planet Earth.
I couldn't imagine that I would be the person that I am now had I grown up without need, want, adversity and struggle. I wouldn't have the contrast that I have now that keeps me getting up in the morning with a fire burning in my gut to go out and build something amazing, not for my family, but to leave a lasting legacy on the world. I did make this a better place throughout the very short period of time that I spent here. I think it's important.
There's a partner. I know the head of operations. If you haven't heard of this company, I'd love to make an intro, Carbyne911. They connect people from their cell phone through a secure connection to police departments. They're selling it mainly to police, but it feels like there might be a tie between your two apps. Why call on the phone? You could video it and send them the video, but now you've got to transfer the file. This thing creates a secure connection between the person's phone who's reporting a live situation right to the police. It's like a live 911 call with video.
That's cool. I'll certainly look them up and follow up with you.
Tell me this, AI has been around many years, and I think there's are more than that 50-something, but there was an AI Winter is what I've heard about where it went away for a while. Computing power wasn't what it needed to be. Now it's back with massive speed. Thinking about your product without AI, if you took it out, does the company even exist, and how is it different than what it is now?
No, the company exists and the company would be one of my competitors. That's what my competitors are doing. They're out looking for keywords and phrases, and they're utilizing machine learning in order to do that. What's different about us is our solution does more than keywords and phrases. It understands nuance, context and how to aggregate data in order to understand nuance and context so that we're not delivering false positives to the chief human resource officer of 100,000 employee company every two minutes because the technology doesn't have the ability to aggregate data and understand the big picture.
I remember having dinner with someone named Sonny in San Francisco. He had purchased by mortgaging his house $1 million of code of Israeli intelligence code that could converse through a chatbot by reading entire paragraphs where most of the competitors in the market space would read a sentence or two your point keyword search. This was several years ago. He knew being able to have the whole conversation, understand context matters and picking up a keyword US flag. That could be either cool or bad, depending on the situation.
You see where that can go wrong. If you happen to get an email on your work account and your wife's like, “Can you stop by the store and pick up some chicken breasts on your way home from work?” You don't want your chief human resource officer getting a false positive because the word breast was mentioned in an email, but if you're stopping at keywords and phrases, that certainly what's going to happen. At CommSafe.ai, we are on a quest to create actual artificial intelligence because we want to solve this problem of human beings being hurt at work. It shouldn't matter where they're working, whether they're working from home or in a brick-and-mortar environment that's owned by the proprietor of the company. Organizational leadership owes it to their employees both legally and morally in order to make sure that we're providing them with a safe and secure work environment that's free of discrimination and harassment.
Multiple billions of dollars of value make intuitive sense. If someone's reading this and want to make an investment in your company, are you taking investors?
I am. Fortunately, we've already raised about $2 million of venture back funding in our pre-seed round. I'm opening our seed round, and we're going to raise an additional $2.5 million in order to allow us to expand out our engineering and operations team ahead of our commercial go-to-market in September 2021 alongside ServiceNow. We completed a technology partnership with ServiceNow to integrate our solution across their entire platform so that it's accessible by their 6,200 plus customers worldwide. We want to make sure that we can keep up with that sprint. We're expanding our engineering and operations team. We're going to use that money to expand the sales team as we're certain of product-market fit alongside ServiceNow.
Ty, this has been amazing. I do have a friend who's connected to NFL players. His company is called The Athlete Group. Usually, the athlete brings the investment to him and then he vets it and tells the athlete 99% of the time, “Bad idea, run the other direction.” This one sounds like one of those that he should bring to the athletes. I'd be happy to make that introduction to you.
It doesn't matter what we think. We need to find out what the market thinks by talking to customers.
Yeah, please. That sounds amazing. Thank you so much.
This has been an amazing conversation. We've been talking with Ty Smith, the Founder of CommSafe AI, a San Diego-based company. Ty served in the Navy as a SEAL. He's done a lot of cool stuff. Ty, thanks for your contribution to the country and to all you're doing to protect employees, citizens of the country. It's awesome what you're doing.
Thank you so much, Chad. I appreciate it. It's chicken soup for my soul. That's who I am. I'm a protector of people at heart. I'm happy to be here.
Congrats to you and good luck on the raise. Let's stay in touch.
Thanks so much, Chad. This has been great.
Thanks for joining the show. We'll catch you on the next one. Cheers.
About Ty Smith
Ty Smith is a native of the great state of Illinois. He enlisted in the United States Navy September 30th, 1996. His first duty assignment was as a military police officer in Sardinia, Italy; for nearly five years, he submersed himself in Sardinian culture, and the Italian language. Ty was accepted to Basic Underwater Demolition School (BUD/s) in October of 2001, just one month following the September 11th terror attack. Ty graduated from BUD/s training in the Spring of 2003, and was then assigned to SEAL Team 8 in Little Creek, VA.
After a successful tour of duty on the East Coast, Ty transferred to the West Coast and served as a Naval Special Warfare training instructor for three years prior to being assigned to SEAL Team One in Coronado, CA. After the successful completion of six deployments to the Middle East as a SEAL operator, Ty completed a Bachelors Degree in Organizational Management from Ashford University, and an MBA from the University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business.
Ty retired from naval service May 20th, 2016, after 20-years of faithful and honorable service to God and this great nation. Immediately after his retirement, he launched CommSafe AI, formerly Vigilance Risk Solutions, a San Diego based technology company with focus in conflict and violence prevention.