Itay Dressler and Itzik Ben Bassat, who have held various software engineering and executive roles in startups together over the years, are used to exchanging brief messages. Ben Bassat has ADHD, and for this reason prefers to keep texts on the shorter side. But as he and Dressler faced a growing number of tools at their employers, they realized they weren’t the only ones who could benefit from more succinct updates.
So they founded The essential with the grand mission of “simplifying the consumption of information in workplace communications and data” through instant highlights. The startup’s first product uses AI to analyze Slack messages and provide a personalized summary, aimed at filtering out noise.
And in business, there’s a lot of noise to filter out. According to a 2021 report in Tech Republic, a survey of remote workers showed that 18% suffered from “information overload” while 8% were overwhelmed by the amount of data and apps they were supposed to check every day.
“There is an overload of SaaS (software as a service) applications that are not deeply integrated. Different teams use different tools to create information silos,” Ben Bassat told TechCrunch in an email interview. “The integration between these SaaS tools increases information overload, not reduces it. There’s no reason that in 2022, using AI, employees can’t get the information they need to make better decisions in a short, personalized form.
Installing TheGist’s Slack app – which can summarize both channels and threads – is a fairly straightforward process. Once connected to a workspace, the app can be added or invited to channels a user wants to summarize. Typing the “/gist” command invokes it, generating a new summary – usually a bullet or two – of what happened in the channel, visible only to the person who requested it.
TheGist Slack app can provide summaries spanning timescales from one day to several weeks. Beyond that, it can summarize particularly long individual Slack messages. The service is free for up to five summaries, but unlimited summaries require a premium subscription, which starts at $10 per user per month.
“We wanted to release a tool that highlights the need to reduce information overload in businesses,” said Ben Bassat. “TheGist is a game changer for decision makers as we enable managers to dramatically increase the amount of information in the workplace that they can consume by assimilating and personalizing it… For employees, we serve them the the information they need when they need it so they can be aligned with the organization and make better, more informed decisions.
That’s a lot to promise. AI, while improving by leaps and bounds, has its limits; TheGist summaries may contain errors from time to time. And from a security perspective, companies might be reluctant to let a third-party application process internal messages, especially companies in highly regulated industries.
Ben Bassat didn’t provide many details about TheGist’s AI systems and their development, except that he relies on “several models from major open-source languages” with “specific internal tuning.”
“We use statistical models to evaluate the output of our models and assess accuracy,” Ben Bassat said. “As with any AI-generated product, the results may contain synthesis errors, and our users are aware of them.”
On the issue of compliance, Ben Bassat says TheGist doesn’t store any Slack data other than the specific messages users request to summarize, which it deletes once the summaries are generated.
There aren’t many competitors in the Slack synthesis space. But there are a few, it is worth noting. Frame summarizes Slack activity from the day before, providing metrics such as team responsiveness and auto-detected “high” and “low” times. Grok, a Slack app, provides summaries of Slack conversations and threads generated by OpenAI’s GPT-3 API. There’s also TLDR, which uses algorithms to spit out Slack message digests.
But Ben Bassat and co don’t see TheGist’s first app as the end game. Meanwhile, Ben Bassat says the company is set to release “proprietary generative AI solutions” for different platforms in the future. close – although it’s unclear for which platforms and which types of generative AI. Ben Bassat didn’t have much to say on the subject, which suggests that the details are in flux.
“The goal of our platform is to allow everyone to be notified of short updates from whatever application they use for communication or productivity: email, SMS, project, doc files, etc. Solving this challenge requires a lot of technological focus with a high level of expertise,” said Ben Bassat. “Our vision is to deliver accurate summaries and actionable insights across all insight-producing applications. “
Aside from the success of TheGist’s Slack app, generative AI is probably a wise path to take. It’s new in technology, of course, with startups like Jasper, an AI copywriting app for marketers, recently breeding $125 million at a $1.5 billion valuation. VCs are certainly excited about this prospect; Sequoia Capital said in a blog post from September that he believed generative AI could “create trillions of dollars of economic value.”
For its part, TheGist has raised $7 million to date in pre-seed funding co-led by StageOne Ventures and Aleph. Eden Shochat, Partner at Aleph, said via email: “TheGist’s first tool is just the starting point, and there is so much more to come. In a world where corporations create excessive amounts of data, across multiple tools, employees only want to focus on the information that matters to them, when they are relevant. TheGist is on a mission to create magical tools that work for the user, rather than the other way around.