With the stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health has never been more important. Many employees have gotten comfortable working from home and are reluctant to return to the office. This transition could add to their already significant stress load.
Amplio.ai hopes to help make their lives a little easier. The company utilizes AI technology to help ensure employees are in the best condition to do their jobs. We reached out to co-founder and CEO Trug Tran to learn the origins of the company and how AI can help people in the future.
Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Can you give us a brief elevator pitch for your company?
Amplio is designed to help companies keep high-value employees by providing an AI guide, which helps employees be emotionally, mentally, and physically ready to perform. We also provide aggregated data to the employers to help them provide the benefits and services their employees need to avoid burnout and maintain their morale.
What inspired you to take the leap and build this company?
I believe that artificial intelligence should not be about replacing people but making people better. It should help us understand our world by understanding the data that’s being collected all the time. I think the one area where we need that help the most is our own self-awareness of our mental and physical state. Having an unbiased guide that helps us understand realistically where we stand and helps us get better will make all of us perform better. Who knows what we can accomplish if we just overcome our own bias and misconceptions?
What past experiences prepared you to start, build, and lead your company?
I was a DARPA PM and worked with multiple universities on AI projects. This gave me a good understanding of the state of the art and the state of the possible. I saw through this work the real possibilities of AI to make us think better. I also worked every job in tech. I have been in engineering, marketing, sales, operations, and have a finance degree from Wharton. I think this gives me a unique perspective on how to make a tech company successful. I learned this from companies such as Intel, Altera, and Extreme Networks, to name a few.
What is your vision for the future of the industry you are operating in?
I think AI needs to evolve from automation to decision support systems. I think we should not look to a future like WALL-E, where machines do everything for us, but rather one where the machine is our closest advisor, helping us understand our world and make informed decisions. When we have machines deciding things for us, the danger of misinformation and tyranny is too high. You see that today in what is happening in social media. Machines should not tell us what to do but help us make decisions by making sure we are informed about what is in our best interests.
Who is on your team and how did you come together?
My CTO, Grant Gillary, worked for me at DARPA and is a brilliant neuroscientist and AI expert. We have also assembled a world-class advisory team on human performance. This team came together from our shared interests and networks.
Do you have any competition, if so, how do you differentiate?
You can say the wearable companies like Whoop, Oura, or Fitbit and data aggregator platforms like Smartabase and Kinduct are our competition, but they tend to focus on collecting and displaying data. Also, they tend to focus a lot on the physical side of performance. We do two things differently. First, we believe in the mind-body connection and take a more holistic view on performance, looking at all aspects of what makes you perform well. Secondly, we know that our customers don’t have data science degrees or analytics staff. They don’t understand how to interpret the data, so displaying it is not enough. We need to guide them through how we are understanding the data and give them clear recommendations on what to do.
What does your business model look like?
We are a business-to-business company selling to customers who have employees in high-stress, high-demand jobs where a single mistake is costly. These jobs have high turnover, mostly due to burnout, and positions are extremely hard to fill and replace. So, our customers have a vested interest in keeping those employees and making sure that they can maintain their physical, emotional, and mental health.
What brought you to equity crowdfunding and how do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?
We are in an interesting space where we need more money than angel groups alone can give us, and we aren’t big enough for traditional venture capitalists. So, crowdfunding provided a bridge between a pre-seed round and an A-round. Also, it allows us to tap into our networks and get funding without polluting our cap table. It becomes one line on the cap table.
What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?
We want them to know we are solving the right problem. Mental health, especially in the workplace, is front and center these days, and there are not a lot of tools a company can use to help their employees. We are solving it at the right time. The shared trauma of COVID-19 is not something that will be easy for people to overcome. We help with this transition back to normal. Finally, we are the right team. It takes a cross-functional team of AI, human performance, and medical experts to deliver on these complex problems. We have hundreds of years of work experience on hand to help us make the right decisions for success. So, we are solving the right problem, at the right time, with the right team. We can’t help but be successful.
As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? have you set any future goals for the company?
We are part of the GCS start-up program and are partnered with them on our government contract. We would be a good addition to any wearable company. We have also gained the interest of a wellness company who would like to see how far we can go with this product. We will need to be acquired to really scale or raise a lot of money. So, we see these as our three exit strategies.
In terms of future goals, we are preparing two additional pilots this fall, which will help us finalize our UX development and will show that we can actually help these companies transition their employees from remote work to onsite work.
We look forward to seeing where Trung and his team take the company. Amplio.ai is currently raising on Republic.