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Published by Freddie Laker in Innovation, Technology
In acknowledgement of Black Tech Week, which celebrates African American innovators during the last week of Black History Month, we’re focusing this week’s article on five innovative black-led technology companies.
I happen to work at a black-led technology company. I didn’t know it before, but being a black CEO in tech is surprisingly rare. I enjoyed putting this list together as the black men and women in the industry are exceptional – I just wish there were more of them!
METALAYER – CO-FOUNDER: JONATHAN GOSIER
Organizations are swamped in data. Much of this data remains unused and untapped. There is simply too much data for most organizations to cope with. Metalayer was set up with the purpose of making this data understandable to the non-specialist users within an organization. In many ways, Metalayer is designed to make data scientists out of everyday people.
It has developed a number of products, both in the area of data visualization to help make sense of data, and in the area of data science, to help scientists and analysts undertake predictive analysis, as well as utilizing data in new ways.
One of Metalayer’s founders is Jonathan Gosier, who along with Matthew Griffiths, set the company up in 2011. Gosier is pleased to see how Metadata has helped customers in such fields as disaster relief and countering violent extremism in Somalia. It has been used to monitor health trends and patterns, using social media channels, of combat veterans.
In 2013 Gosier was nominated as one of three Innovators of the Year by Black Enterprise Magazine for his work with MetaLayer. In 2015 he was named by Time Magazine as one of their 12 New Faces of Black Leadership.
Since he set up Metalayer, Gosier has continued to be a venture capitalist and serial entrepreneur, focusing mainly on tech companies, in both the United States and Africa.
PUBMATIC – PRESIDENT: KIRK MCDONALD
PubMatic provides the technological nous behind the automation of advertising across various sales channels. Amongst their specialities is real-time bidding, enabling the winner’s ads to be displayed seamlessly on publishers’ websites. Of course, if an advertiser knows that you have expressed an interest in their product they will be far more willing to pay for an ad on your computer screen, than they will for someone who has never shown any interest in them before.
PubMatic focuses on ensuring that advertising performs at its best on a wide range of technology platforms. One of their goals is to provide consumers with a personalized advertising experience across display, mobile and video screens.The leadership team at PubMatic is a veritable example of the United Nations, with the team having representatives from a variety of different nationalities. Kirk McDonald, the company’s president, is a force to be reckoned with. Before joining PubMatic, Kirk had leadership roles ranging including the President of Digital at Time Inc., the Chief Advertising Officer of the Fortune|Money Group, the Senior Vice President of network sales at CNET.
PIGEONLY – CEO: FREDERICK HUDSON
Pigeonly focuses on using technology to improve communication between prisoners and their loved ones. Their products range from methods for enabling cheap-local rate phone calls that bypass the expensive prison systems to simple methods of allowing the friends or family to quickly share photos from social media sites like Facebook to prisoners via prison-approved mailing methods.
Founder and CEO, Frederick Hudson, actually came up with the product concepts when he was in prison himself, having difficulties communicating with his family. He knew there must be a better, less costly, way for prisoners and their families to keep in contact. The products of Pigeonly are his solutions to the problem he saw first hand.
VIRTUAL INSTRUMENTS – CEO: JOHN THOMPSON
Virtual Instruments provides infrastructure performance management, to ensure that any mission-critical applications flow seamlessly across physical, virtual and cloud-computing situations. The Virtual Instruments technology is the glue that keeps a number of America’s largest corporations systems functioning.
They made it into position number 3 on Forbes list of Most Promising Companies in 2013.
As we have seen, the fact that they have a black CEO, John Thompson, is very much a rarity for large technology companies, particularly ones that works with enterprise-level clients. I certainly can’t argue with one of his quotes, “I’ve always believed that your work had to be exciting or your life would be pretty darn boring”.
KAIROS – CEO: BRIAN BRACKEEN
Kairos provides tools that make it easy for developers to use facial recognition and emotion analysis in their applications. Facial biometrics is a rapidly growing industry as companies look to add features ranging from identity detection to audience engagement metrics in out-of-home advertising. Unfortunately, that technology is frequently too expensive or too complex for most companies to solve. Kairos aims to bring this tech to the masses.
Kairos is the brain-child of Brian Brackeen, founder and CEO. He worked at IBM and Apple before founding Kairos to develop his original idea: a facial recognition powered employee time clock. He quickly discovered that some of the technology used in the clock which related to facial recognition actually had more potential than the clock itself.
Full disclosure, I work at Kairos, but I truly believe they’re one of the most innovative black-led companies in America so I feel with total sincerity they should be on this list. Thankfully companies like the WSJ also happen to think they’re one of the most interesting new start-ups around too!
In the future, humans are going to be artificially intelligent.That's the prediction of Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google (GOOGL, Tech30), who spoke Wednesday at the Exponential Finance conference in New York.
Kurzweil predicts that humans will become hybrids in the 2030s. That means our brains will be able to connect directly to the cloud, where there will be thousands of computers, and those computers will augment our existing intelligence. He said the brain will connect via nanobots -- tiny robots made from DNA strands."Our thinking then will be a hybrid of biological and non-biological thinking," he said.The bigger and more complex the cloud, the more advanced our thinking. By the time we get to the late 2030s or the early 2040s, Kurzweil believes our thinking will be predominately non-biological.
Related: Elon Musk warns about unleashing artificial intelligence 'demon'human robot hybrid.We'll also be able to fully back up our brains."We're going to gradually merge and enhance ourselves," he said. "In my view, that's the nature of being human -- we transcend our limitations."Kurzweil, who is known as one the world's leading inventors, has predicted what the future will look like before. In the '90s, he made 147 predictions for 2009. In 2010, he reviewed his predictions, 86% of which were correct. He gave himself a "B" grade.
His correct predictions included that people would primarily use portable computers in 2009, that cables would disappear and that computer displays would be built into eyeglasses.
Related: These tiny robots have superhuman strength He did admit on stage Wednesday that he thought we'd have self-driving cars by 2009"Now that's not completely wrong," he said. "If I had said 2015, I think it would've been correct, but they're still not in mainstream use. So even the [predictions] that were wrong were directionally correct."
For those concerned with artificial intelligence taking over the world, Kurzweil said we have a moral imperative to keep developing the technology while controlling for potential dangers.
"As I wrote starting 20 years ago, technology is a double-edged sword," he said. "Fire kept us warm and cooked our food but also burnt down our houses. Every technology has had its promise and peril."
Say you snap a photo for Instagram and the colors aren't quite as impressive as you wanted — and not even filters are helping. In the past, you might have abandoned the photo, but now there's a new possible solution.
Instagram on Tuesday began rolling out a new color tool, which lets you tint the highlights or shadows in your photo with different colors. You can choose from yellow, orange, red, pink, blue, purple, cyan, or green.
In its example images, Instagram shows how you can enhance an otherwise lackluster sunset photo, making the sky look more red or giving the landscape a purpleish tint.
Besides that, Instagram is also getting a new fade tool, which lets you "bring a quiet tone to your photos by softening colors" — perfect for when you want to convey a sort of melancholy or vintage look.
Fade and color are available now on Instagram for Android (version 6.19.0) and should arrive on iOS "in a few days," Instagram said.
And that's not all. The Facebook-owned photo-sharing app is also adding a new feature called Post Notifications, which aims to help you keep track of your favorite Instagrammers. The optional setting lets you to receive notifications when specific people you follow post to Instagram, so you never miss a photo from your favorites.
To enable the notifications, navigate to a friend's profile and tap the three dots in the top right corner. From there, you'll see an option to "Turn on Post Notifications." This feature is available today on Android and iOS.
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