Five Questions for Banjo's Damien Patton
Based in Park City, UT and with operations in California, Washington, DC and Nevada, Banjo has developed artificial intelligence technology to provide its customers with validated, live time information so they can make better decisions faster, when people’s lives are at stake or human suffering can be reduced. We caught up with founder and CEO Damien Patton to find out more:
Is Banjo essentially in the pattern-recognition business?
DP: Sure, but really we are in the life-saving business. Our mission is to save lives and reduce human suffering. The way we do it is through ‘unsilo-ing’ data from disparate sources and synthesizing everything live while a life-threatening event is happening.
We gather data from 911 calls, traffic cameras, IOT devices, satellite imagery, weather feeds, social media and more. Our clients include police, fire, emergency responders, hospitals, schools, and universities. They can understand incidents more clearly and quickly, essentially in live time.
At the same time, we anonymize the data, since the ‘what’ is more important than the ‘who.’ We honor the privacy of individuals.
What are the chances your process incurs false positives?
DP: We use artificial intelligence to sift billions of signals on a daily basis, and we use a patented process of multi-source validation, so we don’t get false positives. What we do get is the ability to provide our clients with faster response time to emergencies. We’re minutes, sometimes hours, faster than our competition. When you’re a first responder, that extra time can spell the difference.
Is Banjo’s ability to filter data impeded when outside of urban areas? Does your service still work effectively for clients in rural areas?
DP: It’s true that urban areas provide a greater density of data to filter, but our technology still works effectively in rural areas. Take traffic cameras on rural highways as an example; our AI technology can determine when the images we’re filtering show smoke in the area. We can alert fire crews to a wildfire long before conventional methods can.
Our revenue model is subscription-based, and structured so that small clients can afford it. The value of a life is the same, whether that person lives in a large city or a small town. We try not to create financial barriers for our rural customers.
When you launched the company several years ago, a lot of your customers were news media, such as TV stations trying to get the jump on other stations in their market. What’s the composition of your customer base now?
DP: The majority now are government, non-profits, and public services such as hospitals and educational institutions. We still have some news media, but that’s less of an emphasis for us. We’re focused on things like emergency response, child abductions, human trafficking, opiate victims, homelessness, and natural disasters.
These are all concerns for government and social organizations, and where speed of response can mean the difference between life, or death. Frankly, we thought news outlets would move faster than public service providers, but that’s not what we’ve seen in practice.
Banjo started in the Bay Area. How has your experience with Utah been?
DP: My wife has spent a lot of time exploring Southern Utah and then visited the Park City area two years ago. I was content to stay in Silicon Valley, but she said we were moving here.
I did not expect much from Utah when we first made the move. I figured I would be commuting weekly to Northern California. But we found Utah more welcoming, and with business-friendly government at the city, county, and state levels. There’s an ability to grow a business and attract talent here. It’s a perfect storm in a good way—you can grow a business exponentially in an atmosphere conducive to innovation. You can thrive personally and professionally.
Utah is not perfect by any means. Like other states, there’s growing homelessness, child endangerment, and an opioid crisis. But unlike other states, my sense is that Utah will be able to solve these problems more quickly. I call it an ‘open-arms’ community that’s willing to try different solutions and not get stuck in how it’s always been done.
Bonus question - What are the company’s growth plans?
DP: We just closed another $100 million funding round, bringing our total investment to about a quarter of a billion dollars. In part, we’re using that funding to expand both here in Park City and in Salt Lake City. We opened a small office in downtown Salt Lake about three months ago, and we’re going to add new office space there in the fall. We are currently hiring another 100 people in Utah.
Our executive team members love living and working in Park City. Having office capacity in the Salt Lake area allows us to attract more engineering talent from Utah, Salt Lake, and Davis counties. The combination of the two locations allows us to offer quality of life in whatever way a given employee defines it. That could be mountain biking after work, or getting home sooner to spend time with family.
For more information, visit ban.jo