Welcoming Notiv to the portfolio — Written by Dan Winter
Countless first encounter meetings, numerous follow up conversations, ample noteworthy highlights, and only one notetaker, me!
It’s not unusual in my industry for each member of our investment team to take several solo meetings each week with new founders to ensure we collectively cover as much ground as possible. My challenge — running effective meetings and asking relevant, productive and purposeful questions while also operating as a solo note taker with very little ability to multi-task with any level of accuracy.
In fact, it’s not unusual in most corporate industries, globally, for a large portion of business hours to be spent in back to back meetings. There is a slight data black hole around precisely how much of an employees time (at any level of seniority) is spent attending meetings and documenting meeting notes over the last 3–4 years. However, we can look further back to around 2015 when productivity in the workplace was a hot topic and some sources estimated in the US alone there was around 11 million meetings per day, with approximately 50% of these being considered a waste of time, costing US business near US $37 billion per year at the time.
By many accounts, it appears this number is rising as we are all attending more meetings than ever, partly because the cost of organising them has dropped and partly because it’s far easier than in the past for attendees to take part via telephone, video conferencing, screen sharing, and the like.
At a similar period in time, a team of Bain & Company executives completed a study on the ripple effects just one weekly executive committee meeting had on an organisation to better understand how much time was being spent in corporate meetings. The results were as follows:
· 1 x weekly executive committee meeting accounted for 7,000 hours of executives’ time annually. To prepare for this meeting, ex-com members needed to meet with all head of unit employees in their division.
· This 1 x executive committee meeting required approx. 11 divisional meetings in the lead up to the executive committee meeting in order to collect the content and insights required from senior advisors to the unit.
· Holding 11 x divisional meetings accounted for approx. 20,000 meeting hours a year, which also required around 21 further team meetings and an additional 63,000 meeting hours a year.
· These 21 team meetings typically involved approx. 130 preparatory meetings or 210,000 lower level employee meeting hours a year under best case scenario.
In total, this equated to an annual time investment of roughly 300,000 collective in-meeting employee hours to run just 1 weekly executive meeting in large enterprise. Phenomenal how this stacks up so quickly, isn’t it?
This is what has me most excited by our newest investment — Introducing Notiv.
Notiv is an in-meeting solution for professionals that uses a powerful combination of industry-leading Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Digital Signal Processing (DSP) technologies, including Speech-to-Text (STT) and Natural Language Processing (NLP), to effortlessly and securely capture actions and transcribe meetings whether it be via phone, computer or in person allowing users to Meet Better™.
You might be thinking, “Well what is different about this one? I’ve seen many similar technologies in the market already”.. let me tell you what has us excited about Notiv.
1. The company is founded by an incredible duo, exceptionally well placed to solve this problem and in possession of the unique skillsets required to build out world class tech in this vertical;
Chris Raethke — Previously a co-founder and CTO of Bugcrowd, a crowdsourced security testing platform for web and mobile applications where he worked on improving the security of companies such as Spotify, Twilio, Quora, Fitbit, Indeed, Pinterest, Salesforce, Heroku, Tesla and Western Union. He also started out his career as a software developer for one of Australia’s biggest mining and exploration companies — RioTinto.
Iain McCowan — Brings more than 20 years of digital signal processing (DSP), audio signal processing, speech-to-text (STT) and microphone array experience. Previously, Iain worked with the CSIRO, as a university professor and as a startup founder of a software-enabled microphone for recording meetings.
2. The entire Notiv team has a captivating and relentless focus on the nailing the underlying technology build.
Notiv’s approach has been tech focused from the very beginning, they did what great technical founders should — focus on identifying the existing depth of alternatives in the market and understood precisely how and why they had a unique and unrivalled opportunity to counter this with new and improved technology, and knew precisely what they had to do in order to achieve their technical objectives.
In addition, unlike many of the existing solutions in the market, Notiv hasn’t focused on rapid mass user adoption and scale from day one, instead, the team has only recently completed a very dedicated and concentrated effort towards refining the product within the professional services vertical with only a handful of early customers to ensure the technology actually solves many of the user experience challenges prior to taking it live with the wider market.
3. Current technology in the market just doesn’t cut it.
When we started researching this space the technologies we found looked quite promising. Several US based tech startups had already introduced the concept of in-meeting automated intelligence with voice recognition, natural language processing and speech to text capability — essentially bots with the ability to join your meetings and take notes, highlight important parts, summarise actions and capture questions. Exactly what we all needed! Unfortunately not.
The reality of these products in practice was not so impressive to say the least. Very quickly I realised a lot of these companies were founded around the period of mass commercialisation of AI and STT technologies between 2012 and 2014, throwing every buzz word of the time around with it. After a few weeks trialing the various offerings in the market it became increasingly evident these products weren’t all they were hyped up to be.
Some common challenges I observed in the existing products were:
· The AI and STT struggled to understand the conversational context and how to structure sentences;
· Bots needed a large amount of pre-meeting information around keywords to listen for to actually understand what was important in each particular meeting. This made the user experience less efficient because it added an additional task before each meeting, a task I didn’t have time for;
· The post meeting script would document irrelevant points as actions items for all meeting participants;
· It was surprisingly complicated to actually instruct a bot to join each meeting, unless it was on the initial meeting invite; and
· Finally, the meeting transcripts at completion required thorough review due to frequent errors in the text captured such as misused words, incorrect sentence structures and incomplete sentences that occasionally drastically missed the context of things said in the meeting (which on occasion could have been detrimental).
In summary, if anything stood out to me most about my experiences, it was that there appeared to be a huge amount of hype in this space coming out of the US, and to be frank, not a lot of high-quality products doing what was advertised in the product description.
In contrast, the Notiv technology already understands progression through planned meeting topics and can analyse how conversations are progressing against the planned meeting agendas. Even better, the technology is capable of identifying speakers and intelligently documenting the true meeting actions and summary highlights — without the potentially embarrassing misrepresentations. As evident in the outputs of some of the existing technologies out there today, this is by no means an easy task and not one the team at Notiv was willing to take lightly.
We are very pleased to be meeting better with Notiv moving forward
Despite having only just come out of its private beta mode, Notiv is already being used by 60 companies in Australia and the US and has been used in more than 1500 meetings. We are absolutely thrilled to have found another team of this calibre to add to our portfolio and look forward to seeing them further develop this product.
PS: Notiv is hiring! If you’re interested in working with NLP, Speech-to-text, product engineering and working with a highly experienced team, head to https://www.notiv.com to find out more.
Publishers Note: I am an Investor with Full Circle VC & Black Sheep Capital, a former management consultant, strategist and tech enthusiast. For the record, any opinions contained represent my views and me only.