By Lauren Rosenblatt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | October 19, 2021 | Post Gazette, Business, Tech News
A Pittsburgh-founded software startup run by Carnegie Mellon University alum won a pitch competition Tuesday aimed at supporting and accelerating the development of innovative anti-hate solutions at the Eradicate Hate Global Summit.
The summit, a three-day event held at the David Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown, brought together dozens of panelists from government agencies, academia, tech companies and other industries to seek out ways to prevent violence and extremism. On Tuesday, the second day of the summit, six startups got the chance to pitch solutions.
From lasers that could disorient an active shooter to a platform that would help law firms guarantee digital documents had not been altered, the startups came with hardware and software solutions to tackle physical and digital threats.
The winner, ViralMoment, uses computer vision and artificial intelligence to make the Internet “a better place by shining a light on emerging social media video cultures.”
Judges listen to pitches at the Anti-Hate Technology Venture Fair Tuesday at the Eradicate Hate Global Summit. From left to right: Vidya Ramalingam, founder of Moonshot; Brette Steele, senior director for preventing targeted violence at the McCain Institute for International Leadership; Lorrie Faith Cranor, the co-chair of Collaboratory Against Hate and the director and Bosch distinguished professor at CyLab Security and Privacy Institute; Brian Fishman, policy director at Facebook.
In other words, providing more information on what’s going on in those viral TikTok videos and how brands and government agencies can use the trends to amplify their messages.
“Insights are good but action is the holy grail,” said CEO and co-founder Chelsie Hall.
The software can work to find trends in gaming culture or in viral challenges, like the most recent craze to wreak havoc on schools and catch it on film. But it could also be applied to measuring cultures of antisemitism or white supremacy to look at trends in conversations around voter fraud or to detect financial fraud.
Ms. Hall said ViralMoment is working with a major local bank to understand fraud detection. And, the company has done demonstrations for the U.S. Department of Defense, CIA and FBI.
Right now, the app has solutions for TikTok and Reddit and is working on technology that is “platform agnostic,” so it can operate on any short-form video.
It works by “scraping” data off the platforms, a process in which one computer program extracts data generated from another program.
ViralMoment is part of this year’s cohort from CMU’s VentureBridge, an initiative of the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship that helps alumni founders with seed funding and startup growth.
A Pittsburgh native, Ms. Hall went to Quaker Valley High School and was building her company from her home in the Mexican War Streets before moving to Menlo Park, Calif., this summer to join the startup accelerator TechStars Los Angeles.
ViralMoment won $50,000 at Tuesday’s anti-hate technology venture fair.
The second-place prize, of $10,000 went to Page Vault, a Chicago-based legal tech company that offers a way to guarantee digital documents have not been altered with PhotoShop or other tech.
The third-place prize of $2,500 went to Activism Always, a Bay Area-based company that provides social media insights to mission-driven organizations, small businesses and BIPOC-owned businesses.
The venture fair was sponsored by CMU, the University of Pittsburgh, Facebook, the Segal Family Foundation, the 412 Venture Fund and the Peace Initiative. The initiative was formed by a group of entrepreneurs following the 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life or L’Simcha congregation in Squirrel Hill, with the goal of using the skills of the entrepreneurial spirit to fight the rise of hate, officials said.
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