I was first introduced to Maran Nelson by Danielle Morrill at Mattermark. I had invested in Mattermark when I was at Ignition and Danielle, being the first Clara customer, knew Maran and I would enjoy a conversation. Our first meeting was supposed to be an hour and it ran well over that...
What struck me most in that first meeting was Maran's level of compassion and curiosity about people and the world, and the way we interact. Part behavioral psychologists, part engineers, Maran and her co-founder (and childhood friend) Michael Akilian were also deeply passionate about the way we interact with computers. They founded Clara Labs to automate the highly repetitive and tedious work that saps billions of human hours of productivity; time we lose to email, spreadsheets, and information-shuffling.
The team started with scheduling as the first use case, and developed a 'human-in-the-loop' system that uses humans to provide context and computers do the predications. This system interprets 100s of nuanced signals - who is the email from, time it was sent, the request (phone call? in person? coffee, lunch, dinner? travel time? do others need to be included?) to generate the exact right response, with personality, on the other end. Over time, this system gains 'intelligence' - the feedback loop helps Clara get better at interpreting requests and more efficiently responding automatically, without needing a human.
Clara is incredibly easy to use: just add an email address (i.e. email@example.com) to the cc of any email reply and Clara takes care of the rest. As the meeting gets scheduled, the person on the other end never knows they are interacting with a computer. I often had people show up to the office and want to meet Clara, to say thank you for being so responsive and easy to schedule with -- and were shocked to find out it was a computer.
Clara started as a virtual EA but has evolved into a powerful tool for sales and recruiting coordination. Clara removes all of the back and forth scheduling interviews for candidates, moving them thru the pipeline faster without sacrificing their experience. And this has a meaningful impact not just on efficiency but delivering a delightful candidate experience has a ripple effect improving close rates, employee satisfaction, and culture.
The team at Clara is at the bleeding edge of what's capable in an AI-driven world, and the system they are developing can eventually be applied to other problems in the future of work. We're excited to be a part of the journey.