By LAURA LOREK, Publisher of Silicon Hills News
With remote work becoming routine, more conversations are moving to informal communications channels like Facebook messenger, Slack, and direct messages.
“All of these platforms are just going bonkers,” said Kevin Brinig, CEO and Co-Founder of LitLingo. “Things that have traditionally been nonchalant communications have all moved to the digital realm now.”
Training people how to communicate appropriately in these channels as well as email, text, and other platforms is the sweet spot of LitLingo. The Austin-based startup employs artificial intelligence and natural language processing databases to help organizations communicate more effectively.
On Monday, LitLingo announced that it has closed a $2 million seed round led by Austin-based LiveOak Venture Partners. The company plans to use the funds to further develop its software and to hire additional engineers. LitLingo has 5 employees now. The company signed a lease at Industrious, a coworking space in downtown Austin, a few weeks before the pandemic lockdown in March and its staff have been working remotely ever since.
LitLingo’s Co-Founders Brinig and Todd Sifleet met at a ride-sharing company they worked at together in the San Francisco Bay area. They both ended up moving to Austin. And in January of 2019, they came up with the idea for LitLingo to provide AI-powered monitoring, prevention, and training solutions in real-time across a variety of communications channels.
LitLingo’s platform can help companies avoid costly lawsuits and build stronger culture, Brinig said. It can correct employee’s communication in real-time and flag inappropriate content and train employees on the best way to communicate, he said.
Working in the technology industry, Brinig and Sifleet saw people make mistakes with their communications, not in a malicious way, but by saying slightly the wrong thing, Brinig said.
“It happens in every single industry especially with the rise of remote work,” Brinig said. “And that kind of was the initial instigator for us to start the company.”
Inappropriate messages are happening every single day in all kinds of companies, Brinig said.
“Where people’s meaning and what they intend to say is not actually what they say and that causes a lot of headaches for employees, customers, and management,” he said. “It just creates a lot of friction in the universe for any organization.”
Over time, LitLingo’s system can evolve to be customer-specific, domain-specific, Sifleet said.
“And that’s one of the things that is great about artificial intelligence, you’re always learning and getting better,” Sifleet said. “Your system is more powerful in three months than it was three months before, which is really exciting.”
The founder and CEO of DISCO, which makes AI-powered software for electronic discovery services for law firms, told Krishna Srinivasan, managing partner of LiveOak, about LitLingo. DISCO is also a portfolio company of LiveOak.
LitLingo’s real-time platform can tell people if there is a risk in what they are typing, Srinivasan said.
“It’s like Grammarly for business communications,” he said.
Grammarly developed software that uses artificial intelligence and natural language processing to correct people’s grammar mistakes in real-time.
LitLingo’s platform adds another layer of business intelligence on natural language processing software and it can detect hateful language and other things that people need to be more careful in typing, Srinivasan said. It minimizes toxic language, he said.
“People need to be careful about what they write and what they say,” Srinivasan said. “Companies need to be more culturally aware and the sensitivities in the modern age.”
LitLingo also met LiveOak Venture Partners’ criteria for investment. The company’s founders have extensive backgrounds in the technology industry tackling complex problems, and they also have a clear understanding of the market for their product, Srinivasan said.
“It’s an incredibly hard problem to do it across different types of platforms and do this in real time and not be annoying,” Srinivasan said.
The addressable market is massive, said Brinig
“Any organization can glean insights from its own data and improve,” he said. “Early adopters will have a competitive edge when they are adopting technology like with LitLingo you can improve customer service, which is a function of every single industry. You can improve sales language.”
If you think about a team that is selling a new product, people can make mundane mistakes like guaranteeing something that they don’t have authorization to guarantee, Brinig said.
“Our software can pick up that kind of language and make sure it’s being used in the most appropriate way,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s really a real-time training platform.”
With informal communications channels like Slack companies need to be thoughtful and mindful about the culture they are creating, Brinig said.
“The employees that you have, you want to create the best environment for them,” he said. “If you can do a really great job at that you have happier teams, happier individuals and less churn”
LitLingo is another tool in the toolbox to help people be more effective communicators in a business environment, Sifleet said.
LitLingo integrates with Slack, Zendesk, Gmail and Office 365 with a couple more coming down the pike, Brinig said.
“If everyone had the training of your best customer service agent, that email would never have gone out,” Brinig said. “That’s what we are trying to do. We are trying to take your expertise and encode it into an AI system that is applicable to everyone.”