Ty Smith, the founder and CEO of CommSafe AI and retired Navy SEAL, has always seen himself as a protector of people. That’s why he launched CommSafe AI – a technology company that focuses on conflict and violence prevention in the workplace, while promoting diversity and inclusion. Through its first-to-market AI tool, the startup plans to help companies fight against bullying, harassment, aggression, Title IX offenses and other toxic communications, which costs US workplaces roughly $528 billion a year.
Ty, who grew up in East St. Louis, Ill., found himself in San Diego following a dream to join the Navy. He first served in Sardinia, Italy as both a translator and military police officer, and almost stayed there to pursue higher education at the University of Rome. But, following 9/11, he pursued Navy SEAL training in Coronado where he served for 15 years. He retired in 2016, intending to work for the FBI with a new MBA in hand from USC Marshall School of Business.
Although he planned to wait about 10 years to pursue his own business, the 2015 San Bernardino shooting brought on conversations about how employers can prevent and prepare for similar situations. This encouraged Ty to create a training company, teaching clients how to prepare for active shootings and prevent workplace violence.
In the last five years, his highly specialized team has put a lot of effort towards listening to customer demands, and Ty accredits the company’s evolution and pivoting to these conversations. In 2020, the company took the leap to becoming solely a tech-enabled company focused on analyzing toxic communication between employees using AI.
CommSafe AI’s tool analyzes communication in real time and flags toxic messages – similar to the algorithm of an email spam filter – that would threaten the integrity of a safe communication space or violate shared company values. The software tracks tone, meaning that the algorithms can semantically tell if the tone of a message is insulting by analyzing word choice and word patterns.
In addition to alerting management of an issue, CommSafe AI also provides “next step” recommendations. For example, the system would suggest customized coaching for well-meaning employees to help them increase their communication awareness and sensitivity.
The company is currently beta testing its AI tool with select customers, with a plan to introduce the technology commercially later this year.
Listen in as Ty talks with host Neal Bloom about his entrepreneurship experience and the company’s plans for the upcoming year.
Ty’s favorite local tacos: Don Panchos in Imperial Beach
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