Optimizely co-founder Dan Siroker said the idea for his new startup Scribe dates back to a few personal experiences – and while Scribe’s first product is focused on Zoom, those experiences weren’t related at all. to Zoom.
Instead, Siroker recalled starting to go deaf and then having a ‘revelation’ the first time he put on a hearing aid, as he regained a feeling he thought he had lost.
“It’s really the spark that got me to think about other opportunities to increase the things your body naturally fails to do,” he said.
Siroker added that memory was an obvious candidate, especially since he also suffered from aphantasia – the inability to visualize mental images, which made it “difficult to remember certain things.”
It may jog your memory if I note that Siroker founded Optimizely with Pete Koomen in 2010, then stepped down as CEO in 2017, with the test and customization startup acquired by Episerver last year. (And now Episerver itself is renamed Optimizely.)
Today, Siroker is now CEO of Scribe, which is taking registrations for its first product. This product integrates with Zoom meetings and turns them into searchable and shareable transcripts.
Siroker demonstrated this to me during our Zoom call. Scribe appears in the meeting as an additional participant, recording video and audio while creating a live transcript. During or after the meeting, users can edit the transcript, watch or listen to the moment associated with the recording, and highlight important points.
From a technological standpoint, none of this sounds like a huge breakthrough, but I was impressed with the fluidity of the experience – just by adding an additional attendee, I had a full recording and a searchable transcript. of our conversation that I could refer to later, including while I was writing this story.
Although Scribe recorded the meeting, Siroker said he wished it looked more like a replacement for note-taking than a tape recorder.
“Let’s say you and I met and I came to this meeting with pen and paper and I write what you say,” he says. “It’s quite socially acceptable – in some ways it’s flattering… If instead I brought a tape recorder and dropped in front of you and hit a record – you might actually have that experience – with some people it’s very different.
The key, he argued, is that Scribe recordings and transcriptions can be edited, and you can also turn individual components on and off at any time.
“It’s not a permanent recording,” he said. “This is a shared artifact that we all create in a meeting that, just like a Google document, allows you to go back and make changes.”
That said, it’s still possible for Scribe to record embarrassing comments, and the recordings could potentially cause problems for meeting attendees. (After all, the leaked corporate meeting tapes have already sparked a number of reports.) Siroker said he hopes this is “not common,” but he also argued that it could create an increased sense of transparency and accountability if this happens occasionally.
Scribe has raised around $ 5 million in funding, through a round led by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, and one led by First Round Capital.
Siroker told me he viewed Zoom as simply the “beachhead” of Scribe’s ambitions. Next, the company will add support for products like Google Meet and Microsoft Teams. Ultimately, he hopes to create a new “hive spirit” for organizations, where everyone will be “smarter and better” as so much of their conversations and knowledge is now searchable.
“Where we go after it really depends on where we think we can have the biggest positive impact on people’s lives,” he says. “It’s harder to justify the personal conversations you have with a spouse, but… I think if you find the right balance between value, confidentiality and control, you could really get people to embrace that in a way. way that is in fact a win-win. . “
And if Scribe is truly fulfilling its mission of helping us record and recall information in a wide variety of contexts, could this impact our natural ability to remember things?
“Yes, that’s the answer, and I think it’s okay,” he replied. “Your brain has limited energy… Remembering things someone said a few weeks ago is something a computer can do amazingly. Why waste your precious brain cycles doing this?
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