As allegations of workplace harassment and discrimination continue to shake Silicon Valley and the country at large, Spot is launching out of beta with an AI-powered recording tool to help employees who feel they have been treated improperly.
“There are a lot of hurdles to reporting these kinds of experiences,” said Spot cofounder and chief scientist Dr. Julia Shaw, in an interview with VentureBeat. “One of them is fear of retaliation.”
Spot’s web-based tool is free and available to any employee who wishes to report inappropriate behavior. More importantly, they can choose to do so anonymously. A chatbot prompts users to share their experience and makes sure all the information is there.
“It’s incredibly easy to forget things or misremember them,” added Shaw, “which is why it’s important to record them when the memories are fresh.”
It’s interesting to note that the concept for Spot came out of AI startup studio All Turtles, which was co-created by Evernote cofounder and serial entrepreneur Phil Libin (Evernote is a note-taking app). Daniel Nicolae and Dylan Marriott, both former Evernote employees, joined All Turtles last June to begin working on Spot. Libin then introduced the duo to Shaw, a criminal psychologist who specializes in memory science.
Spot, which fuses AI with science, officially became an independent startup in December 2017.
The startup uses what it calls “cognitive interviews” to collect pertinent information from employee who feel they have been harrassed. Shaw argues that in these sensitive situations, it’s important to know “what not to ask,” as subjective comments could lead the employee to overthink or misinterpret an incident. The basis for a solid cognitive interview is to ask practical and neutral questions, explains Shaw. What’s more, employees may also feel more comfortable when chatting with a bot.
“A bot can’t judge and can’t have unconscious bias,” said Shaw. “They are programmed to ask specific questions.”
Business-wise, using bots is also more scalable than relying on a handful of memory scientists. And the icing on the cake? Bots are available 24/7.
If users have questions about whether they should report certain behaviors or actions, the bot goes through definitions of what constitutes harassment and explains the process involved in reporting such incidents. Users can choose to include as much detail as they want. Spot then creates certified, private PDF reports from the interview — each entry is time-stamped and constitutes evidence — something that could come in handy if the case escalates to a trial.
The data is stored in an encrypted space until the report is downloaded, at which point it is deleted from the servers.
According to Spot, the idea isn’t to monetize the reports, and for now the startup is focusing on the user experience. In the future, however, the idea is to sell some sort of AI-driven management system to human resource (HR) departments within companies.
This reporting tool could come in handy for the numerous Silicon Valley-based tech companies that are faced with harassment allegations, the most recent of which is detailed in Perry Coneybeer’s Medium post. The 19-year-old tech marketer alleges she was fired from Ripcord in retaliation for reporting a fellow employee to human resources.
Spot has received an undisclosed amount of funding from All Turtles and currently has six employees across its offices in San Francisco, London, Berlin, and Zurich.
Disclaimer: Former VentureBeat editor-in-chief Blaise Zerega now works at All Turtles.