Startup of the week:
Who they are: Bark, an Atlanta-based startup that launched last year.
What they do: The app is designed to protect children and teens online by using artificial intelligence to analyze their social media, text and email messages. It alerts their parents if it finds evidence of cyberbullying, suicidal thoughts, sexting or other risky online behavior.
Why it’s cool: Young people’s online activity is increasingly impacting their mental health. Children and teens have committed suicide after being the victims of cyberbullying, while others have expressed suicidal thoughts online — a 14-year-old Florida girl even killed herself earlier this year while streaming on Facebook Live. In 2015, more than 15 percent of high school students reported being bullied online, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
Bark, which charges $9 a month or $99 for one year, works with programs including Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Pinterest and Kik, and sends an alert to the child’s parents via email or text message if it detects a potential issue.
It’s designed to let parents monitor their children’s online activity without violating their privacy — instead of letting parents read all of their kids’ online communications, the app only gives them access to troubling messages. And because the app’s algorithms analyze the full context of a conversation, it can tell the difference between true cyberbullying and a child’s friend saying “I hate you” in jest.
Where they stand: The app has analyzed more than 500 million messages so far, according to CEO Brian Bason. And, he said 25 parents have written to say the app saved their child’s life by alerting them to his or her suicidal intentions. Find out more at www.bark.us.
Only in Silicon Valley:
Need a gift for Dad this Father’s Day? Maybe he’d like Grillbot — the automatic grill-cleaning robot. Think a Roomba, but instead of zooming around your floor vacuuming up crumbs, Grillbot scuttles around your grill, scrubbing bits of charred food and grease from the grate.
To use the tiny robot, place it on your grill, decide how long you want it to spend cleaning, and set the timer. Then the machine will scurry around the grill in a circular pattern, cleaning with its rotating brushes. The Grillbot’s motor will stop automatically if your grill is too hot (it must be under 250 degrees).
New York-based smart products vendor Wellbots sells the machines for $119 in several different colors.
Run the numbers:
Uber has been one of the number-one topics of conversation in Silicon Valley this week. CEO Travis Kalanick took a leave of absence and the startup revealed a 13-page list of steps it will take to fix its company culture following accusations of sexual harassment and other unprofessional behavior.
That controversy has taken a toll on the ride-hailing giant’s popularity, according to a report by market research firm Morning Consult. As of Monday, 40 percent of U.S. adults polled had a favorable opinion of Uber — its lowest score since October. The week before, Uber’s likability was at 49 percent.
And despite Uber’s efforts to change, not everyone is impressed with the ride-hailing giant’s plans.
Venture capitalist Ellen Pao, a well-known advocate for women in Silicon Valley, tweeted:
“My $0.02: It’s lipstick on a pig until the CEO owns it or is replaced. Change comes from the top. Where’s the board accountability, too?”
My $0.02: It's lipstick on a pig until the CEO owns it or is replaced. Change comes from the top. Where's the board accountability, too?
— Ellen K. Pao (@ekp) June 13, 2017
Susan Fowler Rigetti, the former Uber engineer who sparked the firestorm against the company with a February blog post accusing its human resources department of turning a blind eye when she complained of sexual harassment, also chimed in.
“I wonder: who is holding them accountable for the things in the report?” she tweeted. “It’s easy for them to get away with saying ‘we’re doing it all.’”
I wonder: who is holding them accountable for the things in the report? It's easy for them to get away with saying “we're doing it all”.
— Susan J. Fowler (@susanthesquark) June 15, 2017
Photo: Bark lets parents monitor their children’s online activity without invading their privacy, by using artificial intelligence to spot potential issues such as cyberbullying, suicidal thoughts or sexting. (Courtesy of Bark)
Tags: Bark, cyberbullying, ellen pao, Grillbot, sexting, suicide, Uber