Kairos gets a $4 million lifeline for its facial recognition software
Megan Rose Dickey
Kairos, the facial recognition startup that found itself in turmoil following the ouster of founder and then-CEO Brian Brackeen last October, has raised $4 million in funding from E. Jay Saunders, CEO of Domus Semo Sancus. This brings Kairos’s total funding to $17 million.
As of November, Kairos had just enough money to get through Q1 of this year. At the time, Brackeen was looking to raise $5 million for the company and had already secured $3.5 million from Beyond Capital Markets, contingent upon Brackeen rejoining the company. Fast forward to today, and Brackeen is still out of the company and the interim CEO, Melissa Doval, has been appointed to permanent CEO.
The drama started back in October when New World Angels president and Kairos board chairperson Steve O’Hara sent a letter to Kairos founder Brian Brackeen notifying him of his termination from the role of chief executive officer. The termination letter cited willful misconduct as the cause for Brackeen’s termination. Specifically, O’Hara said Brackeen misled shareholders and potential investors, misappropriated corporate funds, did not report to the board of directors and created a divisive atmosphere.
Kairos sued Brackeen who then countersued the company in November, seeking to hold Kairos and Kairos CEO Melissa Doval, then interim-CEO, accountable “for intentionally destroying his reputation and livelihood through fraudulent conduct, the publication of malicious falsehoods, and the commission of illegal corporate acts.”
The suits are still in litigation.
Kairos is trying to tackle the society-wide problem of discrimination in artificial intelligence. While that’s not the company’s explicit mission — it’s to provide authentication tools to businesses — algorithmic bias has long been a topic the company, especially Brackeen, has addressed.
“I have always admired Kairos and its visionary work in pushing face-recognition technology beyond law-enforcement uses, while also ensuring its applications fall under self-imposed, ethical standards,” Doval said in a press release. “I’m especially proud to be leading our company’s dynamic team in my beloved hometown, as well as our innovative R&D team in Singapore, and look forward to making this inspiring brand even stronger.”
With Doval officially at the helm, Kairos says it stands by Brackeen’s earlier intent to not sell to law enforcement. Moving forward, Doval says Kairos has “great opportunities in the online dating and online gambling verticals to pursue.”
“We want to find ways and solutions for our product to protect people, not persecute them,” she said in a statement to TechCrunch. “Age and identity verification in these two verticals are very important and it is dire for these industries to ensure the safety of minors and we would like to be an integral part of that.”
Through investment and partnership with DSS, Kairos will also create a solution for banks for identity verification.
“I could not be happier about his investment and to see him at the helm of the board as executive chairman,” Brackeen said in a statement to TechCrunch. “The resignations of the former chairman as well as the other board member, who caused so much angst for the company and its shareholders, are concrete signs of progress. E. Jay has been instrumental in this progress and healing.”
For Brackeen, his plan is to launch a venture fund that uses AI to reduce bias in investment decisions. Called Lightship Capital, the fund will “also license out our AI to other venture capital firms, so they too can eliminate bias from their investment funnel. We look forward to seeing which firms take us up on that offer.”