A Conversation with Omar Haroun, Founder of TextIQ
Hi Omar! Thank you for taking the time to talk with us this month, let’s start at the beginning, what is Text IQ?
Text IQ is harnessing AI technology to protect enterprises from high-stakes data disasters — i.e. legal and compliance risks that cost companies billions of dollars per year. Search, as a technology, is both over-inclusive and under-inclusive. Text IQ’s AI-based software solutions provide a better alternative to search, to help companies find “high stakes needles” in a haystack faster and more accurately than ever before. We’re now working with the General Counsels, Chief Compliance Officers, and Heads of Litigation of some of the biggest companies in the world, and have won every bake-off that our clients have done, when comparing us to their current process.
Would you mind clarifying a little bit what “search” is and maybe how Text IQ compares with it, for those unfamiliar with AI?
Sure, by “search” I mean search technology, Google being one of the best examples. When you Google something your goal is to get something “good enough” in the top ten results, not to find every document related to your query. But when a company is looking for “high stakes needles” — for example, looking for traces of insider trading or documents protected by privacy laws or emails that could damage the reputation of a company’s key executives if it were leaked to the public, now the goal becomes reducing the haystack from ten million documents to ten thousand documents, while making sure those ten thousand documents contain the whole needle. That’s where Text IQ comes in. There is still human review that is needed of the ten thousand documents, but that’s achievable in a way that manual review of ten million documents would be impossible.
That’s great! And this was not your first venture, correct?
My first venture, Sportaneous, is something I started while I was finishing up my JD/MBA at Columbia. We focused on building mobile apps to get people healthier and more active. It taught me a lot about starting a technology company in a “low-tech” industry. Probably the biggest lesson was the importance of listening to the people you’re trying to help and not making any assumptions.
Is it accurate to say that you’ve always wanted to build your own Startups?
I’ve always enjoyed solving problems, and might hold a record at Columbia Law School for the number of student clubs I started, but I didn’t really even know startups were a possible career until I got to graduate school and got exposure to startups from a couple of law firms I interned at. Once I started my first company, I got hooked. With a startup your death is always imminent, which is a huge motivator. There is also nothing stopping you from implementing any ideas and it’s the ultimate meritocracy which really appealed to me.
Did CVC play a roll in the Text IQ building process?
CVC and Columbia generally has been a hugely valuable resource for us. We’ve recruited some amazing interns and employees, and shared best practices with other founders. We’re also proud to have office space at the Columbia Startup Lab, and to interact with other Columbia founders every day.
What would be your advice to other founders?
My two pieces of advice would be (1) to listen to your customers and really do customer discovery before building anything. It may be cliche, but there’s a reason so many people (especially experienced founders) say that! (2) relentless focus is the key to success. It’s very hard to say “no” to all the things you could do but your only hope of competing with much bigger, well-funded companies early on is to go an inch deep, rather than a mile wide, and to solve one problem 10 times better than anybody else.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about? (i.e. product launches, recent achievements, links to other interviews..)
We were recently featured in Forbes!
Thank you again for sharing with us Omar and best of luck to you and your team!