First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Dhruv Ghulati: Very well, thank you!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Factmata
Dhruv Ghulati: I founded Factmata after 2 years in banking. I then made a swift transition to the tech world after product roles at import.io and Weave.ai, both VC funded startups at the seed/pre-seed stage. I then did a computer science master’s degree, with my thesis around automated fact checking. My company developed from ideas I had explored there, which Google ended up funding!
How does Factmata innovate?
Dhruv Ghulati: We developed unique technology to extract and monitor claims online – opinions about things that start from 1-2 people stating them online. We cluster similar opinions together every day and rank them by their threat level to corporates, government and more – often finding new rumors before other people can find them. We also detect propaganda and hate speech for any piece of content online using natural language processing.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Dhruv Ghulati: We have had it tough as all businesses have had but we benefit from the fact we are a mainly remote team. From a customer perspective, it has helped us actually – when risks go up, corporates are scared about threats, and want to make more sales from existing products. We are in fact seeing increased demand for a system to a) find disinformation and misinformation that can harm them b) find unique product insights that squeeze the most out of their sales.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Dhruv Ghulati: The most difficult choice was to scrap an entire part of our business, our B2C social media platform Briefr, and focus on B2B for 2 years (as it would be most likely to generate revenues). This was despite many people externally and internally in our team wanting to focus on building a new consumer app to solve fake news (to most, its a little bit more exciting). I did this because I didn’t feel a consumer app was likely to get immediate traction in 2018, having looked at the data. This decision paid dividends for us, but didn’t have its share of detractors. My biggest lesson is to stay strong with decisions as a founder despite investors and team sometimes having a different point of view, and take responsibility for any execution of that decision.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Factmata in the future?
Dhruv Ghulati: I deal with stress by having a loving group of friends around me who take me out of my headspace when I am always thinking about work, and allow me to unwind.
In the future I see Factmata as one of the top media companies of this decade, standing alongside Twitter and Facebook but being different to them, because we content quality at our core, rather than virality.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Our competitors are Yonder.ai and primer.ai mainly – both US based. We see a real gap in the market for a UK and Europe based player to evolve. Due to GDPR and Europe’s focus on avoiding cookies, privacy, GDPR, and social media regulation etc, we think demand for a service like Factmata which is about preventing people spreading harmful misinformation will have strong government and regulatory support. We also have a unique consumer angle we haven’t yet revealed yet 🙂
Your final thoughts?
I hope we fund more companies doing impactful things – and bake impact and non-financial metrics into the return vectors of VC. I think the world needs services that tackle hard things like disinformation and misinformation, climate change, human connection, mental health and more, and I hope we find better ways to back those ideas properly and institutionally, early on.