Hate Taking Meeting Notes? This A.I. Note-Taker Does It for You
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
This platform remembers everything that happened in that last sales call so you don't have to.
By Carly Stern
It’s the end of quarter’s most mission-critical sales meeting — and you can tell someone has screwed up because your boss doesn’t utter a word until the call ends. Even worse, a key stakeholder didn’t dial in. Will you trust the new intern to convey the awkwardness of this exchange and capture action items in hand-scribbled meeting notes? Or would you rather have access to a digital capture of the meeting, complete with takeaways?
That’s the value proposition of Fireflies, a meeting recording service that indexes your meetings and makes them searchable, sharable and routable to popular business applications. Think of it as super-detailed meeting notes … that you didn’t have to take.
Here’s how it works: Users log into the platform using Google or Outlook calendar and invite artificial intelligence notetaker “Fred” to a meeting (it can also be configured so that Fred automatically joins all calendar invites with a web-conferencing link). Fireflies then compiles the meeting data into an information library of sorts — making it storable and searchable like Gmail or Dropbox. Shared workspaces can be also created so that teams can view each other’s meetings.
The beta version of the tool is the brainchild of Sam Udotong and Krish Ramineni who met when Udotong was an undergraduate at MIT and Ramineni at the University of Pennsylvania. Since its 2019 launch, Fireflies now has reached tens of thousands of users.
Fireflies also aims to capture all of the nuance, intonation and complexity of human exchanges.
The platform isn’t meant to replace the need to focus or be present in meetings — but rather to shift how people spend their time, says Udotong. So instead of trying to “remember what you need to do, you can rely on a system to do that for you and then you can direct your attention to executing on what you’re doing.”
Because as automated as our world becomes, humanity is still key. “It’s the relationships between people that often drive the money changing hands,” says Susan Kimberlin, an angel investor who has used Fireflies and invested in it (the company raised roughly $5 million in venture capital in its seed fundraising round). Fireflies is meant to automate “the parts of a sales process or a business process that don’t require humans” — the rote tasks — so people can focus on the complex decision-making and relationship-building that’s most critical, Kimberlin says.
What’s more, Fireflies also aims to capture all of the nuance, intonation and complexity of human exchanges. “It’s not just what the person communicates, but it’s also how they communicate,” says Michael Ng, the COO of a health care machine learning startup who has used Fireflies. “The context is very important, including how people pause, how quickly they respond to a question,” he adds.
For an emerging company, it’s especially valuable to “memorialize why we chose a particular product decision” at that moment in time, so employees can revisit that pivot point whenever they want, Ng says. He’s even relistened to meetings at the gym or in the car and gleaned new takeaways from a call.
The tool could prove hypervaluable for companies with a large remote staff. But as more people use it, awareness about consent procedures will prove critical, particularly for calls with external clients. People need to know if their client is using Fireflies — and understand what that means: Unsuspecting meeting attendees shouldn’t be surprised to learn that “Fred” has recorded their colorful expletives, confidential information spills or complaints about their boss.
Some might worry the tool could prove to be a Pandora’s box, or slightly dystopian a la Black Mirror. Do we all really want the ability to sift through the memories of our work at a moment’s notice, or to be accountable for all that information, after all?
In the meantime, though, it could help less context slip through the cracks — and perhaps spare that poor project partner the pain of trying to figure out exactly what he missed.
Fireflies has a free version as well as pro and business subscriptions ranging in features and price.