Testfire Labs CEO wants to prove AI can take the pointlessness and misery out of office meetings

Testfire Labs Hendrix
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Testfire Labs is applying artificial intelligence to one of the most challenging aspects of working in an enterprise — no, not finding, converting or retaining customers. Surviving the agony of office meetings.

Based in Edmonton, Alberta, Testfire Labs’s initial product is bot dubbed Hendrix.ai, that captures and transcribes conversations from business meetings. Beyond acting as a digitized minute-taker, however, Hendrix is also designed to provide analyses of meeting behaviors, providing organizations with business insights to help improve them over time.

According to Tesfire Labs founder and CEO Dave Damer, the idea for the company came out of his background as an executive in the telecommunications space at firms such as ThinkTel and Distributel. Those roles not only gave him a sense of how powerful voice technologies could become, but the difficulty in many B2B customer environments to get various stakeholders on the same page. This was often an issue now matter how often they connected in a boardroom, he said.

“I have a lot of domain expertise around meetings,” Damer told B2B News Network while visiting Toronto for the Collsion 2019 conference last month. “From my previous days I saw how hard it was — not just to facilitate meetings but dealing with the feelings of employees that they were completely wasting their time in their meetings.”

While automated assistants and bots have been on the rise to help with things like booking rooms and managing A/V equipment, Damer said the natural language processing technology behind Hendrix will provide a sort of ongoing analysis of how meetings perform. Data points can include not only details from the transcript in a meeting but how long a meeting took, who attends and so on.

Testfire Labs is arguing that while most organizations adhere to the “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” rule in areas like marketing or sales, but not the gatherings where they brainstorm, plan and solve problems.

“The way we position it is that we’re not going to transform meetings overnight,” he said. “This is about collecting data, figuring out what kind of meetings are happening, what trends are going on within those meetings.”

While Testfire Labs might seem to be marketing an unusual use case for AI, Damer argues that Hendrix could help identify areas where leaders can take actionable steps to improve their most important business outcomes. It’s also a good example of where AI and voice work well together. He said it was seeing how Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant was being used to take orders at McDonalds, for instance, that convinced him the time was right to develop something like Hendrix.

“Capturing information in meetings manually is hard, because it’s often so unstructured,” he pointed out. “You’ve got people talking over each other. There can be dialects and all sorts of things going on.”

As with many other AI tools, however, Damer said Hendrix can improve the more it is used, learning to capture specific industry acronyms mentioned in a meeting, or customer brand names. Hendrix also potentially frees up people to focus their attention on what’s being said in a meeting, rather than get distracted by notifications from tools like Slack, e-mail messages or phone calls.

“We want to get people engaged in conversation instead of taking notes,” he said. “When you really think about it, what we talk about is at the heart of whatever we’re getting done.”

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Shane Schick

Shane Schick

Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.