San Diego startup rolling out software that flags toxic workplace emails and DMs


CommSafe AI's subscription software is designed to uncover language associated with bullying, sexual harassment, discrimination and intellectual property theft. — Photo by Philipp Katzenberger on Unsplash

CommSafe AI, a San Diego startup whose software identifies toxic language in workplace emails and chat apps, has raised a new tranche of venture capital, bringing total financial backing to US$4mil (RM16mil) over the past year.

Co-founded by retired Navy SEAL Ty Smith, CommSafe uses algorithms to flag inappropriate communications in near real time — before a situation escalates.

The company's first product will launch over the next few weeks via a partnership with ServiceNow, which supplies a suite of help desk tools to big businesses.

"We have already completed the integration of this solution across the ServiceNow platform," said Smith. "They are our commercial go to market partner. We are really excited to turn this solution loose on large enterprises in the next few weeks."

CommSafe AI, which currently employs five full time workers, recently raised an additional US$1.5mil (RM6.29) to bulk up its data analysis capabilities and engineering team ahead of the commercial launch. ServiceNow was founded in San Diego but moved its headquarters to the Bay Area in 2014.

CommSafe has its roots in Vigilance Risk Solutions, a security consulting firm for large companies founded by Smith and others in 2015.

The pandemic derailed demand for security consulting, Smith said. So, the company pivoted to artificial intelligence software starting in June 2020.

CommSafe AI's subscription software is designed to uncover language associated with bullying, sexual harassment, discrimination and intellectual property theft. It works across email products including Microsoft Outlook and Google Suite, as well as collaboration tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams. The company worked with a select group of beta customers to perfect the algorithms, particularly to reduce false positives, said Smith.

Eventually, Smith hopes to add features to CommSafe's product for early intervention in mental health crises, specifically suicide prevention.

Artificial Intelligence is expected to be a focal point of global technology innovation in coming years, with applications across hundreds of industries.

San Diego has a cluster of AI companies, as well as strong research programs at the region's universities and within the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command.

According to a study last year by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., one in four local firms are engaged in artificial intelligence at some level.

TFX Capital led the recent round of funding for CommSafe AI, with participation from Gaingels, Crosscut, Blu Ventures and angel investors.

"The increasing prevalence of working from home has only accelerated the need for CommSafe AI's products," said Brandon Shelton, managing partner at TFX Capital, in a statement. "This team has a unique combination of skills which gives us confidence in their ability to solve an unfortunate need for tools to stop harassment and poor treatment of employees." – The San Diego Union-Tribune/Tribune News Service

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