Advancing San Diego Company Spotlight: Traits AI

The Advancing San Diego (ASD) Internship Program launched this Spring in a remote-capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to provide up to 100 San Diego-based companies with fully subsidized interns. This program targets companies with 100 employees or less, which comprise 98 percent of all businesses in San Diego, employ nearly two thirds of San Diegans, and account for 70 percent of job growth. A key issue for these companies has been a lack of time and resources to recruit the skilled talent necessary to continue their growth.

As students close out their Summer internship experiences, EDC has launched this blog series to highlight the innovative local companies that comprise the first cohort of the program, and the interns they hosted.

In this feature, we sat down with Brandon Bosse, Founder and CEO at Traits AI, Inc. A part of the inaugural cohort of host companies, Traits AI is a San Diego-based software company that creates animated artificial intelligence (AI) avatars that you can talk to, like you talk to Siri or Alexa. The company develops Alexa Skills, Google Assistant Actions, and chatbots for clients to help them better serve their customers; but its particular area of focus is on AI avatars that put a face to the voice using an animated avatar that looks like and sounds like the person they represent to help them extend their reach.

People are busy, especially those in in-demand professions like law, healthcare, consulting, and more. In these fields, there’s often only one point-person, but thousands of people who want a little bit of their time. While we cannot duplicate or replace those professionals, Traits AI can extend their reach by automating some of the repetitive parts of what they do on a daily basis. This frees them up to spend more time on things that require their unique skill set and expertise.

Read on for more from Traits AI founder Brandon Bosse.

Why was your company founded, and what are your current points of focus?  

You know that annoying feeling you get when you ask Siri or Alexa a question and she completely gets it wrong and has no idea what you just said? Yeah, we get annoyed by that, too! That is the underlying problem we fell in love with and seek to solve: people need better, more instant access to information. Of course the nuances of language are incredibly challenging to understand even for us people and, so far, understanding complex language is also beyond what AI models can do. That’s why we turned to crowd-sourcing responses as a stepping stone approach until natural language models like GPT-3 are able to grasp the nuances of language.

Our main point of focus now is on establishing product-market-fit to help in raising a pre-seed funding round. Most investors aren’t aware of the budding field of synthetic media and recent advances in China, New Zealand, and Canada, and it is our job to help demonstrate how AI avatars can be a benefit to modern society.

Tell us about your experience building a startup in San Diego. 

San Diego is an amazing place to start a tech company because it attracts so many brilliant people and has a thriving startup scene.

For example, in 2017, I joined the fall cohort of The Founder Institute, which was instrumental in getting Traits AI up and off the ground. Through networking with fellow graduates, I learned about the Small Business Development Center and The Brink where I have received mentorship and support, including connection to the ASD Internship Program. For the past two years, I have volunteered at the registration desk of San Diego Startup Week and have met some really amazing people!

There are also fun community events and meetup groups that have been a great way to socialize and meet other people interested in entrepreneurship, AI, and tech. I’ve enjoyed attending Triton Entrepreneur Night where I got to see how great pitching is done! And I’ve met some really smart and amazing people at The Machine Learning Society and The San Diego Machine Learning Meetup Group.

Has your company pivoted as a result of COVID-19?  

Yes, in March 2020 we began working on a new AI avatar/chatbot named Vita to help people with advanced care planning, like filling out an advanced directive. Since patients with COVID-19 are typically in isolation, having an AI avatar help them navigate their healthcare choices makes sense so that healthcare staff aren’t exposed any longer than necessary. Vita is able to take as long as the patient needs to talk about and answer questions related to advanced care planning.

Tell us a little bit about your interns and the value they bring.

We have been lucky enough to work with four interns through the program and they have all brought their own unique talents to the team. Their education in programming, web development, social media, and creative writing have helped the company advance toward our goals. I have found them to be professional, responsible, and hardworking even during this time of remote work and I am grateful to have them on the team.

In your opinion, what is special about San Diego’s science and technology community, and the talent that drives it?

California has always been the land of dreamers—people who dare to DREAM BIG and make their dreams come true. It also attracts open-minded, outside-the-box thinkers who don’t always fit into mainstream society. I see many dreamers, open-minded, outside-the-box thinkers in San Diego and THAT is what makes it a great science and tech community.

I think Steve Jobs put it best when he said, “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes…the ones who see things differently—they’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Learn more about Advancing San Diego and our internship program.

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