Spotlight on Sam Udotong / by Haley Smith

Meet Sam Udotong - MIT grad, deep learning & AI speaker, and founder of humanlike Fireflies.ai which takes notes during your business calls! 

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Tell us about Fireflies.ai. 

Fireflies.ai is an AI that joins conference calls and takes short bullet point notes, like a human. We are using DL to understand and extract what's important during calls. Rather than sending a 10 page transcript after the meeting, the AI sends 10-20 bullet point notes containing action items, decisions and follow up steps. We want to help people improve and maintain their relationships by being able to instantly remember what's important and spend more time doing rather than documenting.

 

You guest lecture at renowned universities about applying AI & deep learning. How did you start guest lecturing and establish yourself as an expert in your field?

I'm not an expert! I studied Aerospace Engineering at MIT, and took a bunch of CS courses on the side. While there, I helped start and then became president of the MIT UAV Team, where I got my first start in artificial intelligence. Among other projects, we used reinforcement learning to train drones to herd roombas like a dog herding sheep. As for the guest lecture at Stanford, I was pitching my startup Fireflies to some angel investors in Silicon Valley. One of the angels happened to be a professor at Stanford teaching an AI and Deep Learning course. He took an interest in what we were doing and gave me the opportunity to present my perspective on the challenges of deploying deep learning for a practical startup. Overall, I'm blessed to be building our company in Silicon Valley where serendipitous opportunities like this occur on a regular basis.

 

How did your time at MIT shape who you are today?

The biggest way that MIT shaped who I am today is that it helped me discovery that I was passionate about people and technology. By far, the best part about the school was that I was surrounded by brilliant, energetic people who executed on what they said they wanted to do--no matter how crazy it sounded. When I first got there as a freshman, I never imagined that I would pursue the path of an entrepreneur--actually I was opposed to it. But being in such a contagious environment full of great people made me realize that I could also accomplish what I truly believed in, regardless of how much I needed to learn or how hard I needed to work. The strong community, coupled with great technical resources and hands on opportunities, played a large role in shaping me into who I am today.