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“My name is Cyrus Massoumi and I’m a partner in the venture capital fund, humbition, and we invest in AI companies. I am also the CEO and founder of Shadow which uses AI to reunite lost dogs with their families.
“A few years ago, I was talking to a friend of mine, an artist named Brad Kunkle, who was living in Brooklyn. He had lost his dog Shadow at a birthday party. There was some loud music, she got spooked and ran away. He started looking for his dog, going to all these animal shelters, and hanging up flyers. In the end, he was thinking of giving up when I met him. I was so moved by his story, I told him ‘you cannot give up, I don’t know what we will do but we will help you find Shadow’. Then, a week later, he gets a phone call from someone who said they saw Shadow in a part of Brooklyn called Marine Park. As soon as Shadow’s nose touched Brad’s arm, her tail started to wag and she started to cry, and they were reunited.
“It was obviously a very beautiful and powerful story. After she got reunited, I was reflecting on it with Brad. Brooklyn has millions of people living in it. The fact that only one person had actually seen her just didn’t seem right. It was literally finding a needle in a haystack. It became very clear that we can use technology and AI to make a better solution to this problem.
“At Shadow, we have trained image models to automatically classify every photograph that we ingest of dogs. It classifies it by its breed and by its color. We also use metadata such as when the dog went missing and where it went missing. The combination of all those factors help us match together lost and found dogs. Our algorithms will feed to people the actions that they can take to have the highest probability of getting their dogs back. They can take those actions, their friends can take those actions, and our growing community of Volunteers can take those actions.
“Volunteers can do a number of tasks. They fall into two camps: things relating to searching and things relating to broadcasting. Searching tasks are reviewing through different photos, going through various shelters. The longer a dog is missing, the larger the search radius becomes. There becomes an almost exponential increase in the amount of activity that we need Volunteer help for.
“In much the same way that technology has been used to lower the barrier to hail a cab or to lower the barrier to rent out your home, lowering the barrier to help another person is the next frontier that I think is super important.
“It remains unclear to many whether or not technology has actually made our lives and society better. Creating a mechanism by which we can clearly help one person help another, it’s just a win-win on all sides.”