Emily Kennedy is Co-Founder & President of Marinus Analytics. Emily went form college researcher to tech founder helping thousands of victims in the $99 billion black market industry of sex trafficking, forced labor and slavery. What started off as a college research thesis on human trafficking turned into an internationally recognized AI and machine learning technology to identify and locate victims trafficking sold online and dismantle organized criminal networks.
In their seven years of operation, they've assisted over 2,500 law enforcement and nonprofit users analyze over 400 million records to date. Their technology is 60 times faster than manual identification and saved law enforcement over 70,000 hours of investigative time in 2020 alone. To continue their impact of solving society's most pressing problems, they've applied their technology to include human services and cyber fraud. And in early 2021, they were announced as a finalist in the IBM Watson AI X PRIZE, which is a $3 million competition to build artificial intelligence for good.
Now, this is all pretty amazing for someone with no work, business, or tech experience who thought becoming a founder was a dumb and crazy idea. But despite the self doubt, this entrepreneur has been named Forbes 30 under 30, Toyota's Mother of Invention, and one of Entrepreneur's Most Powerful Women. She has testified before Congress on the important roles of technology and been featured by the United nations and dozens of prestigious publications and news outlets, speaks prominently on the TEDx stage and as a host of the empower podcast, and routinely advise as stakeholders such as the attorney generals, prosecutors, law enforcement agents, and NGOs on use of technology to enable data driven, proactive impact.
This article is sourced from the Evolve Podcast. Listen or subscribe below.
Scroll below for important resource links & transcripts mentioned in this episode.
Want hear another founder using AI to stop child abuse and human trafficking? - Listen to this episode with Chris Wexler, Co-Founder of Krunum, which has has created the best in class AI technology and machine learning to remove digital toxic waste from the internet like Child Sexual Abuse Materials and other indicative content to improve and speed content moderation.
Be your authentic self. The world does not evolve when we all try to be the same as each other. I think that's where the world stops evolving when we all try to follow the same mold. So I think just being your authentic self is a natural way and the world will evolve around you.
Get the podcast show notes delivered directly to your inbox.
Emily Kennedy Interview
Brandon Stover: [00:00:00] Hey, everyone. Welcome to evolve. I'm Brandon Stover and today's guest went from college researcher to tech, founder, helping thousands of victims and the $99 billion black market industry of sex trafficking, forced labor and slavery. What started off as a college research thesis on human trafficking turned into an internationally recognized AI and machine learning technology to identify and locate victims trafficking sold online and dismantle organized criminal networks
and their seven years of operation they've assisted over. Twenty-five hundred law enforcement and nonprofit users analyze over 400 million records today. Their technology is 60 times faster than manual identification and saved law enforcement. Over 70,000 hours of investigative time in 2020 alone. To continue their impact of solving society's most pressing problems. They've applied their technology to include human services and cyber fraud. And in early 20, 21, they were announced as a finalist in the IBM Watson AI X prize,
which is a $3 million competition to build artificial intelligence for good.
Now, this is all pretty amazing for someone with no work business or tech experience who thought becoming a founder was a dumb and crazy idea. But despite the self doubt, this entrepreneur has been named Forbes 30 under 30 Toyota mother of invention, and one of entrepreneur's most powerful women. She has testified before Congress on the important roles of technology and featured.
By the United nations and dozens of prestigious publications and news outlets speaks prominently on the TEDx stage and as a host of the empower podcast and routinely advise as stakeholders such as the attorney generals, prosecutors, law enforcement agents, and NGOs On use of technology to enable data driven, proactive impact today's guest is none other than co-founder and president of marinas analytics, Emily Kennedy,
Emily ever became a powerful force for good. She had an experience that would forever change her worldview. Her passion for creating AI and technology for good to make a tangible impact on our most pressing social problems like human trafficking first started when traveling Eastern Europe with her dad and seeing children begging on the street and being told that these kids were being trafficked by the Russian mob.
Emily Kennedy: [00:02:17] So I grew up as a very. Sheltered, you know, great family, maybe somewhat naive 16 year olds. And I hadn't traveled outside of the U S I hadn't really done anything crazy you know, or different. And so my dad and I were traveling through Eastern Europe and driving down from Hungary to Albania, which you drive through a couple of different countries, including like Serbia and Macedonia.
And there had been a civil war in Albanian surrounding areas like 10 to 20 years prior. And they were still actually rebuilding houses from that civil worst. There was like concrete bunkers in the middle of the road. There was just a lot of things that I had never seen before. And so we were traveling through.
Some of the smallest towns, you know, one stoplight towns, and there's this one in particular where these group of kids were kind of hanging out on the street and they ran up to our car at the stoplight and tried to wash our car windows. And there was this just desperation about it that they just like slammed up against our windows and it kind of startled me and I was like, what is going on?
And after we pass through that area, I asked my friend who we were traveling with, who is from the area, what was going on there. That just, something seemed strange about that. And he said, well, those children are probably trafficked by the Russian mob. They probably you know, have to make a certain amount of money by washing windows and baking on the street.
And then they have to bring that back to their traffickers essentially, which I didn't know the term at the time. But just to think, wow, these kids, you know, they don't. Probably have a family and they don't have protection. And so they're being they're vulnerable and they're being preyed upon by others.
And so that was my first hands-on experience with what looked like human trafficking probably was human trafficking and really stick with me for a long time.
Brandon Stover: [00:04:15] Yeah. How did this juxtapose with the sort of childhood you had growing up and like, what kind of impact did this start to have on you?
Emily Kennedy: [00:04:21] Oh, like completely opposite. I mean, I think I see a huge power for, and something I hope to do with my kids in the future of exposing kids at the right age to stuff that they're not used to. So obviously the ideal parent you'd want to bring your, your kid up in a completely safe environment and you know, everything's perfect and they have everything they need.
But I think there is a point at which. If you want your kid to grow up to be like a responsible citizen of the world, you want them to know, Hey, there's other stuff going on. I think younger is good to do that personally. When you know that they're at an age that can handle that. So for us, it was, you know, even at home, it was like bringing Thanksgiving dinners to the less fortunate in our area, in our just local town.
Just different things like that to be like, wow, not everyone has what I have. And I think what stuck with me the most is that the kids there, they didn't do anything to deserve growing up like that. They were just born into that situation. And so the thing that I could connect with as a 16 year old was I could have been born into that situation.
And my parents always brought me up to say, What can you do with your privilege in your position that you didn't earn essentially? You know, I didn't choose my family to help others because, you know, and I'm a Christian, that's a huge part of my background. It's really about like, with what you're given, how can you help others?
It's not just about hoarding the good stuff or, you know, making yourself better, but being appreciative for what you have and then seeing, how can I help others? How can I make other's lives better? Cause I think that's really a huge part of what we're on this earth to do.
Brandon Stover: [00:06:03] Yeah, well, this obviously stuck with you because you went to study a humanities degree in public policy when you went to a university, but then you ended up jumping to AI and deep learning in your senior year. What made you take that leap between those two?
Emily Kennedy: [00:06:18] Yes. Great question. It's such a weird story when does hearing it back, even though it happened to me. So I was always very big on reading, writing. I loved reading as a kid. I think gifted and writing and communicating. And so when I came to college, you know, I did the whole thing where you don't know what you're majoring in for the first like year or two, and then you finally narrow down.
And so I was studying ethics history and public policy, and I really liked that because it was about half philosophy, half history, and then kind of applied through public policy. And I liked that because I love philosophy and history, but I felt like there has to be some point to this. What are we doing with this?
You know And so I really liked the public policy aspect. And so along with that, I had been, you know, thinking about human trafficking since I was 16. And I remember a moment when I was around 16, around the time that I learned about that stuff.
I thought, this is what I want to do. I want to work in this area, help people somehow. And that was all the direction I had. I didn't really have anything beyond that. And actually at the time that I learned about human trafficking, it wasn't as mainstream as it is now. And the internet wasn't as big as it is now.
So there wasn't as much information. So it was more like people, I knew trying to glean information over time. And so in college, I again thought, well you know, I have this senior honors thesis that I'm going to do. And I can choose any topic I want. So of course it's going to be human trafficking.
And I started in a lot of this was just timing around that time. Craigslist was the big hub for sex trafficking online. It was where a lot of people were selling sexual services. And then a subset of that group was people who had a trafficker who were exploited, who you know, were doing this against their will.
And so I was falling that, and again, the timing was really right for me that you know, Craigslist was big around 2010, 2011, and then had closed down willingly after like a lot of public outcry had closed down their sexual services, part of their website around, you know, 2011 and then a huge amount of that activity move to back page, which then backpage.com became the next big.
Basically online classifieds website, that was a source for a lot of this online sex advertisement activity. And so it was around that shift. And I remember reading about that and being like, Oh my gosh, this is like a big deal in terms of the intersection of technology and human rights and human trafficking and all of that.
And so, yeah, I, I decided that was going to be the subject of my senior honors thesis and kind of worked off of that Craigslist back page happening at the time I was talking with a good friend of mine, Jessica Dickinson, Goodman, who I still talk to now. She's awesome. And she works in the human trafficking space as well.
And we were brainstorming one time over lunch about what if you could use. All of this online data to help find victims. And so that was kind of the seed that was planted and what became my senior honors thesis, which became the foundation of traffic jam in my company now it all started there.
Like what if we could help detectives who are looking for these victims, use the data online in a meaningful way, because at that time it was, and I start interviewing detectives and hearing, Oh, they just have to go Google around and help. They find the victim. And I was like, this doesn't sound like the best way to do this.
And so the machine learning part came in when I talked to my thesis advisor in the humanities. And so that I think this project would be cool, you know, using online data to track victims. And he's like, well, that's great, but you need another person to advise you on the technical side because I'm not technical.
So go find someone. He gave me a list of names. And I drafted my little email pitch to a couple of different professors at Carnegie Mellon. And this one, I emailed him and he responded like the same day. And he was like, yeah, come into my office. Let's talk. And I was like, Whoa, that's cool. So then I went to his office, I think like the next day pitched the idea and he happened to be not only a professor in the public policy school teaching.
Technical stuff like more technical stuff, like business intelligence and, you know, the intersection of like data analytics and public policy. But he also was one of the directors of the Autobahn lab at Carnegie Mellon, which was focused on basically using machine learning to solve social problems back then.
I didn't know what the heck machine learning is. And so I remember again, distinctly that first meeting where I pitched this idea, what if we could do this? And he's like, man, we've got, you know, a lot of great technology at the lab. We're doing similar stuff in other areas like food safety or you know, other problems that we're solving.
And so he's like, I think, you know, there could be something here. We've got to apply some of our algorithms to your idea and see what happens. And I remember walking out of that meeting thinking, Oh my gosh, I am way in over my head. Like, Oh crap. But in a good way. And for me, you know, for anyone listening, who's like, how do you find your passion?
For me? It was like that feeling of, wow, I'm way in over my head with these people who are talking to all these technical things that I don't really know about, but there's something there and I need to pursue it. And so that's where my journey started and I So, I guess I'm a woman in tech. Now people call me that.
So I guess I am, because I, I speak I can speak a lot of the language and understand the general comp concepts and I'm much more on the, how do we connect it to solving a real world problem sort of thing. And so that's kind of where my journey started. And then I just got thrown into the deep end of AI and it's been a very interesting journey so far.
Brandon Stover: [00:12:20] Well, one of the threats I wanted to pull on there was I happened to go through your thesis and I seen at the end of it, there's a copy of the email that you sent to back page, basically asking for their cooperation, stating that, you know, the founders have very similar values that they want to end the sex trafficking.
I'm curious, what was their response to this with so much of their revenue coming from this area?
Emily Kennedy: [00:12:43] That is hilarious. Yeah. I, looking back at that, it's so funny. They never responded, they did not respond, which is too bad because, you know, I was a researcher friendly, not, you know, not that far along in the work. And I think it could have ended a lot differently for them. But as listeners may or may not know, they ended up being shut down by the FBI they're heads of their company were arrested. So it was a huge huge crash and burn for them.
Brandon Stover: [00:13:14] So sex trafficking is a $99 billion industry globally, which is a huge amount. When I heard that number, I was just my jaw dropped.
Can you explain the problem of human trafficking and how it evolved from going from the streets to the internet?
Emily Kennedy: [00:13:29] Yeah. So that's been a whole huge thing. The selling of sexual services is like, as they say, the age old Work, you know, thing that people have done for thousands of years. And so in modern times it was really common that in probably every city, roughly there would be what is called a track and these still exist.
This is like on a certain street where people who are selling sexual services would walk up and down on a certain area. And then people who want to buy know what area that is, and they can drive up and, you know, talk to someone and decide if they want to buy a sexual services. So for law enforcement, this was a, made it a lot more like analog, a lot, kind of easier to find this activity.
And the detective could be there in person in their car looking for, Hey, I know there's a certain trafficker we're trying to catch him. And the trafficker would probably be in another car watching his victims and keeping an eye on them. So it was a lot easier for law enforcement to Find that activity and then observe that activity.
Now, when it moved online, you know, there was a lot of effects. So for at-will sex workers, there was the ability for them to screen clients more safely you know, protect themselves in a lot of different ways. And then for traffickers, it was also an opportunity. It was an opportunity for the traffickers themselves to remain more anonymous, to like make it look like, Oh, it's just a girl advertising as opposed to, Oh, it's, you know, a trafficker or a pimp with a number of victims.
And it's kind of easier to tell when you're in person. And so that made it really hard for law enforcement to track this activity, to actually see what was going on and to find those victims. And so that was that pivot point where we saw, Hey, technology could potentially really help here because normally it's the person on the ground, AKA the detective, dealing with the data saying this is too much data. It's bad. It's a problem. Whereas the data person is like too much data. That's great. That's what we love, you know, is dealing with too much data and trying to narrow down what's important.
And so that was really like where we came in and other groups that work in this space is you know, More data is good in the sense that we can use technology to deal with it. And then ultimately you want to get it to a point where you narrow down enough information that humans can use it. So and that's, that's a common misconception.
We'll probably, I imagine get to more of this later, but when people think about AI, they think, Oh yeah, you're trying to replace the detective or you're trying to automate everything. And actually, no, we're not. We're trying to get the data to an amount that is manually digestible by humans. So in the U S we see, you know, on average 300,000 new ads every single day, Are obviously way too much information for detectives to manually read through.
We actually had, you know, FBI agents and analysts who would, you know, take a picture of a victim to their computer screen and manually scroll through ads, hoping that they would find them. And it's like, I think, you know, we can do better. So yeah, I think that's really where our technology comes in is not meant to replace the detective humans still have way better intuition, better reasoning, better experience than computers.
So it's more about an AI human collaboration. How can we help narrow down the information that the detective has to process, but you know make it so that it's something that they can manually go through and then it's up to the human to do their job and to do the right thing and to make decisions.
Brandon Stover: [00:17:16] Hey, this is Brandon Stover, and you're listening to the evolve podcast with Emily and Kennedy co-founder of marinas analytics in just a moment, you're going to hear about why Emily never thought about being an entrepreneur. He thought starting a company would be the best way to have the most impact with her new found technology.
Uh, first, I want to let you know that all the resources and lessons from this episode are available as a free firstname.lastname@example.org and clicking on the worksheet button in the upper right-hand corner all the lessons that Emily is sharing today or. Are super valuable, but they are only as valuable as the ones that you're actually going to put in execution. So that's why I distill all the action items from each episode in one, easy to use step-by-step. So now you can have, I immediately start applying these to your life and business.
lessons, like how to take university research and turn it into a startup idea. How to get funding without venture capital and how to set boundaries as a founder. And so many more, all of these lessons are email@example.com and clicking on the worksheet button in the upper right-hand corner.
That's evolve the.world, or you can follow the link inside the show notes of your podcast app. Now let's get back to the evolved podcast with Emily Kennedy co-founder Marinus analytics as she shares why she thought she would never start a business, but it would ultimately be the best way to scale the impact of this AI technology.
Emily Kennedy: [00:18:36] I did not think I was going to start a business and I like to talk about this because I think there's this misconception that if you weren't like Gary V if you weren't like selling baseball cards to your friends at age 10, then you're not an entrepreneur, or there has to be some thing in your past that like you were trying to hustle at the lemonade stand and therefore you're an entrepreneur.
That definitely wasn't true for me. So I took a finance class at Carnegie Mellon, and I remember we had to read through the financial statements of failed companies.
And I distinctly remember sitting there reading through this one. And I'm like, people who start companies are either delusional or idiots. Like I would never do this. It's so much risk. Like why do people do this? And then lo and behold, like two years later, I skirt my own company. So never say never, but Yeah, I think for me, it was really as a means to an end.
And I think that is really what being an entrepreneur is. You know, a lot of people think, Oh, I have to have the title CEO, or I have to employ a certain amount of people or make a million dollars to be an entrepreneur. No, I think it's about wanting to solve a problem in the world. And I think entrepreneurship can often be a catalyst to do that.
So at the time, just to get into the nitty-gritty details, we had developed a prototype of traffic jam, which is our software for human trafficking investigations. Me and other people at the lab had developed a prototype at Carnegie Mellon. I actually worked as a research analyst. At the lab for about two years after I graduated on this project.
And so we had this prototype and started getting calls from law enforcement across the country saying, I heard about you through like a law enforcement group. Can you help me on my human trafficking case? And obviously I was like, yes, of course, like, this is my dream. What can I do? But quickly realized that if it was me triaging all of these requests, it's probably not very efficient.
And, and when I say prototype, I don't just mean like a wireframe. It was a fully working tool. It wasn't nearly as easy to use as it is now. It doesn't have as many features as it does now, but it was fully working. So they were able to get information out of it. And that was when we realized that productizing was going to be really important, actually making it a nice, easy to use tool.
Because when you're talking about machine learning and data analysis, you need to make those tools easy to use, to actually have the impact. You've got a detective, who's got a busy workload they're out of the office a lot. You know, you want to make something that they can actually use that is not too cumbersome.
And so that pivot point was where we said, okay, we've got this cool research grade tool. We need to productize it and scale it up to be able to have the impact we want to have. And that was something we couldn't do in research because it wasn't really research questions. You know, we had funding from the national Institute of justice to do research, but what we really needed was like a UI person to put in a button and, you know, make an export button and capability.
And, so my one co-founder is the director of the lab, our church, Nebraska. He's awesome. And then my other co-founder, who's also awesome. I met through the lab through Archer and she was more on the business side. She had her MBA, she had worked in robotics and I was like straight out of college, basically, no experience, but a lot of heart, you know, so the three of us together decided to start the company, which was mostly on paper at the time.
But came. In the right timing, because we were able to get a DARPA contract in the first year as a subcontractor to Carnegie Mellon. Because again, timing the defense applied research projects agency happened to say, Hey, we want to do a project on basically domain specific indexing and search of the public web.
And we want to use human trafficking as the proof of concept. And we said, well, we've been working with data and with detectives on human trafficking investigations for a couple of years now, let's, you know, apply let's let's be subject matter experts. So it was a really small contract, but it was the beginning of a lot of bootstrapping.
We never received VC funding. We bootstrapped, we raised funding through a lot of non-traditional methods, which I'm happy to talk about if that's interesting and just again, a lot of right timing, but, you know, Putting putting in the work too. My dad always says luck is where preparation meets opportunity.
So if we've got the opportunity, but you don't have the preparation, it's not going to work and vice versa. So that was kind of how we made that pivot point from just research to an actual company.
Brandon Stover: [00:23:32] Yeah. I'd like to expand a little bit on this because there is so much research happening inside of universities that I think could be used as, you know, commercialized products all the way from like psychedelics that's happening at the maps institutes to all sorts of stuff. So I'd like you to talk a little bit about some of the, maybe the logistics and roadblocks that you'd come up when taking something that university research and commercializing it as a product such as like funding or intellectual property.
Like what kind of comes up during that transition?
Emily Kennedy: [00:24:01] I love that you asked this question because it really is the nitty gritty of like, how does this actually happen? So for us, it was I can't remember the exact order, but it was starting to work with the tech transfer office at CMIO. And like, how do we get a license? How do we, and they were really helpful.
I think they were more helpful than some about how do you actually get the paperwork? So you basically get a license to say, the company is licensing this technology from Carnegie Mellon, like after three years and at different universities have different terms, but like after three years, then we'll start paying royalties on the sales of this technology, very small, you know, 1% or whatever.
But. That gave us a couple of years to ramp up. So we didn't have to worry about that right away. And then, you know, CMU has a very small stake at our company. And so just kind of figuring out those terms, like getting the legal agreements together and deciding what we're okay with and then signing them.
And for also for us also, we were incubated in CMU for, I think like a year or two. And that was basically because in research we had been gathering data. We had probably, maybe like a million data points at that time. And it would've just been more effort in and troubled to try to like, Take all that data and put it in our, on our own servers.
I don't remember at that time feel like we were at the pivot point of a lot of different like industries and things that were happening. I don't recall if Amazon web services was like a thing like, Oh, you can get your data in the cloud. I think it might've been right before that. And so it was like, okay, having our data on the servers at Carnegie Mellon is just easier.
And so we were able to keep our data there for a couple of years while we were incubated. And the people at the lab were great with like, just assisting with that transition. So that's kind of how that worked and then something else I'll really highly, highly rate commend. If your listeners are in, if you're in the United States in particular, a huge support for us was the national science foundation and particularly the small business innovation research program.
So let me back up We got involved with the national science foundation. And if you're in like healthcare, it could be the national Institute of health, or it could be an IJ national Institute of justice. There's a bunch of different ones and you'll have to find the right one for you depending on your area.
But we had heard about this program that the NSF had called iCore and stands for innovation Corps. And basically what it is is a three month boot camp for university researchers who want to commercialize high risk, high reward technology. It's like, perfect.
Brandon Stover: [00:26:54] Yeah, exactly.
Emily Kennedy: [00:26:56] yeah, and this was designed for.
Higher risk technology that might not get like traditional funding. And I think this is like such a crucial program. And I actually spoke last year in front of Congress testifying about why this program was so important for us. So it was important for us because traditional, so sources of funding wouldn't fund the research.
We had a little bit longer runway of what we wanted to develop before, you know, scaling up adoption and things like that. And this again, can be really applicable in the healthcare space because a lot of companies need a lot more capital and runway and healthcare as well to get started. And so the iCore program, it was this three month bootcamp.
It was I'll probably never forget that experience because it really wasn't a pressure cooker. So I. Was definitely from the research mindset. I hadn't been a career researcher for that long or anything like that, but definitely have this mindset of like, here's the researcher mindset. I'm going to dive deep on every topic.
I'm going to research the heck out of anything. Before I make any decisions, I'm citing my sources. I can make an argument. I know how to do all of that. So when you get into entrepreneurship, of what you need is the opposite. It's like, and it's, I mean, it's like your brain is exploding if you're trying to make that transition.
Right. And your, your brain is just like, what the heck? No, you're supposed to research. You're not supposed to make a decision with 20% of the information, but in entrepreneurship you freaking have to, you don't have a choice and sometimes waiting can me worse than making the wrong decision. I mean, imagine that.
And so the iCore was so great because it was basically teaching commercialization basics. How do you go out and talk to customers? A lot of it was based on the Steve blank, get out of the building mentality where you're in your lab, but you need to go talk to customers, potential customers and hear their pain points and not just make assumptions and you need to have your hypothesis and then confirm or reject it.
And so in that three months, it was And if people look it up, there's different nodes. They call them throughout the U S where they hold these programs. So there's probably one near you. Often they're in universities. And I think so ours was in was affiliated with UC Berkeley. I was based in California at the time.
So my team got to fly out from Pittsburgh like in the middle of winter and enjoy the
Brandon Stover: [00:29:38] Nice.
Emily Kennedy: [00:29:39] And basically you do a kickoff in person at ours was at Berkeley for, you know, three days. And then you all do all your work in a research remotely for, you know, three months. And you get on a call with your iCore people every week.
And it was very stressful as far as the progress that you had to make each week. And then you had at the end, a, you know, celebration again in person at Berkeley. So. Very very accelerated learning. In that time we talk to a hundred potential customers and stakeholders. We did interviews with a hundred, it was a lot.
And then every week we had to be on the zoom or whatever it was at the time talking to, you know, our, our mentors. So they had three main entrepreneurship teachers who were, you know, professors of entrepreneurship, but also had real world experiences essentially who were teaching the curriculum.
And then you had to every week go out and implement it, share your findings, share like what you learned that week, what hypotheses were invalidated, what you learned that you didn't know, whatever it was. And so At the end of hat, we actually had to make a go or no-go decision in terms of, are we going to start a company based off of this?
And our decision was actually no go, which we had a lot of people come up to us afterwards and be like, Oh, I thought you guys were killing it. Why did you say no? Go? And the way we interpreted it was, are we going to start a company tomorrow? And for us it was no, we want to do a little bit more, you know, continuance of the work that we had been doing in iCore and then decide.
So we did start the company, technically I think like five months later, you know, three months later. But it was a great experience. I still keep in touch with people who went through that and it really accelerated a lot of that mindset shift of being a researcher to being an entrepreneur. And there was a lot of blood, sweat and tears shed in that time.
And. It was really hard. It was really hard. Like if you go into expect that it will be grueling and difficult and you'll have your assumptions challenged and it'll be painful, but what's really good about it is that you're making these mistakes in your learning in a safe, enclosed environment. Like you can't really mess anything up.
And I think just, I mean, people talk about mistakes all the time, but it is true learning to make mistakes and how to recover gracefully, how to learn, how to take something away from your mistake. That was also a big learning point in that program. So we went on after the iCore to, they encourage a lot of us to apply for the SBAR program, which again is the small business innovation research program.
Again, through ours was through NSF. Others could be through NIH or NIJ. And basically what that is, the iCore was kind of a precursor. They wanted to prepare. Groups who might be interested in SBR, and then we applied for SBR. So what SBAR is, is actually funding for your research idea. So you have to apply, it's a whole big process, but you get, I think the first amount and they might've changed it now, but for us, I think the first amount was $150,000 for six months.
And then, you know, it ramps up from there 500,000, if you get to the next phase, et cetera. And so it wasn't in the millions, but it was a significant amount for us. Like, I mean, it was not a little amount and that was a lot what allowed us to make our first employee hires and really ramp up. And so we made it through all the different phases that you can get essentially.
And it's, it's you know, free money in the sense that you're not giving up a percentage of your company for it, which is. Huge. And I highly recommend people consider it because they too often think, Oh, shark tank, I got to give up 20%. And for some people, if you want to scale fast and you have a huge market and you want to build a a hundred person team in a year, yeah.
That's probably the right fit for you. But if you want to grow slowly, if you have a smaller market like we did, if you are really mission-driven like, we are maybe something like this grant research funding is better for you. And the nice thing about it is. It's not totally free in the sense that you have to do that vacation.
There's a lot of check-ins, there's a lot of work that you have to put into it, but you're not beholden to anyone. You can do what you want to do. Again, obviously like what you pitched to them has to be what you do, but or something similar, but it was great to be able to grow in that environment and make the impact that we did.
And like NSF loves us and we love NSF because just what we've been able to do together has been awesome. So highly, highly recommend people check that out. If you think it might be right for you.
Brandon Stover: [00:34:46] Yeah, I super appreciate you sharing that because I think it could help so many people, especially as you mentioned, like a different sort of path than having to do the traditional raising from VCs and giving part of your company away and all of that.
Well, let's go ahead and dive into traffic jam. I mean, you said before, like investigators were printing a piece of paper out, a picture taping on the computer and would have to manually search through all these things. Can you explain how traffic game works and why it's radically more efficient, more accurate, all of that.
Emily Kennedy: [00:35:16] Sure. So you totally summarized it well, traffic jam has grown a lot over time, but essentially what it is is it's a suite of investigative tools for human trafficking. And what it does is it gathers the data from these online websites where these ads for sex end up and then it provides different search tools on top of that data.
So it could be like phone number, search, it could be searching for images. It could be you know, any number of things. And that helps detect is actually pinpoint what they're looking for. It helps in terms of archiving, because a lot of And detectives would have the issue. And we actually saw this in certain examples where I remember looking into a massage parlor that has, I think that one had a couple of physical locations and then they seem to be transporting victims across multiple locations up and down the East coast as well.
And the problem with groups like that that are a little bit smarter and more organized, you know, these might be linked to organized crime. They would actually do things like post an ad and then delete it like three hours later. And so if you're a detective, you might never. Actually even know this group exists.
I mean, you like might miss it completely. So that archiving almonds really important. And yeah, it's an investigative tool that helps them find these victims more quickly. So our users estimate that traffic jam is about 60 times 60 times. I mean, that's crazy faster than doing manual search. And so we estimate we saved as much as 70,000 hours of investigative time, just in 2020 alone.
So it's really about saving that time because in cases, especially when you have missing children, time is of the essence. It matters so much that you find them as quickly as possible. We actually had one case where a victim went missing. and then the detectives were able to use traffic jam to find and locate her and arrest two of her traffickers under the span of a week, which is amazing.
I mean, just being able to cut down that time that they spend. So that's essentially how it works.
Brandon Stover: [00:37:28] How did you start to initially grow the company and, you know, get this product out there in the U S and then internationally.
Emily Kennedy: [00:37:35] the beginning was very organic. It was like, okay. Detective in Corpus Christi, Texas calling me up. And at that time it was like, I was a research analyst. I was the only one working full time on this. I'm like in my pajamas, on the couch, like working on my computer and like, Oh, wow.
Yeah, like, I'll help you. So it was a lot of organic growth with users, which I think is great. You know, when people talk about how do you get traction, just having people find you, I think really shows that your solution brings value. And it wasn't something that they had before. So that was the beginning.
And then, you know, it kind of snowballed in terms of, we started going to like law enforcement conferences presenting and you know, then once we worked with detectives, we started to get results and actually have success stories to share, which were really powerful. So a lot of word of mouth growth over time with the law enforcement community.
And you have to know your. Area your users, but within the law enforcement community, specifically word of mouth is really strong you know, indicator that you're doing things, right? So it's not as traditional as let me go buy an Instagram ad.
Like our, the general public is not our target audience. So getting, you know, stakeholders involved, finding, and then over time having the success stories, finding the super users that has been huge super users, people who. Love your technology who soak it up, who want to know what's the next thing coming out who want to have input into the tool?
So we have a super user group who we meet with every like couple months and we'll pitch them new ideas. We'll hear their feedback. This includes detectives as well as analysts. We work closely with the national center for missing and exploited children Nickmick and they're based in DC. Their whole mission is and they're funded by the government.
Their whole mission is to find missing kids. And so we work with them too on and they use traffic jam for every one of the thousands. I think they get about 10,000 a year that are tips specifically for children who are believed to be trafficked for sex. And so they use traffic jam to process all of those tips and then see if they can get any additional info that they then pass on to law enforcement.
So they support those detectives as well. So it was a lot more relationship building, but I think there's something to be said for that, because entrepreneurs want a quick fix, especially when it comes to getting customers But I think something that's really important is that. People will be the most loyal customers. And I was reading something similar that Simon Sinopec said and start with why his book that, you know, it takes longer to build those relationships, but those people will be more loyal to you because you took the time because you took the time to help them with this case that was urgently needed or whatever, rather than just trying to have a quick fix for getting customers.
I think especially in our area, that time that we put in is really, really important to building that loyalty. And as Simon puts it in the book, he talks about how, like, those people will be loyal to you. Even if at some point a competitor has like a better feature or whatever they're going to want to help you succeed because you helped them succeed.
So that's something I keep in mind.
Brandon Stover: [00:40:55] Well, as you grow, you have talked about like, in order to maximize the amount of impact you have, you have to grow your team as well. And so you had to move beyond, you know, just you on the couch, in your pajamas. How did you start to attract people that are both skilled, but also excited about the mission?
Emily Kennedy: [00:41:11] that's a great question. Well you're so right. I mean, just to reiterate what you just said, like realizing that you can have a bigger impact when you have more people is really important because I think entrepreneurs, I speak for myself, tend to want to do everything themselves. That's the joy of getting your hands dirty, building something from the ground up.
That's the fun that a lot of, I think true entrepreneurs love that stage. And it's really hard to let go of, you know, things that you used to do that you love doing, but you realize if it's just me and my sweat sweatpants, we're not going to have as big of an impact. So I need to give some of that up in order to grow our impact.
I think. As dumb or cliche as this may sound just like living authentically is really important because I think people are attracted to your passionate about an issue. So You know, just living authentically for me, it would be not so much back then, but more so now, like posting on social media, LinkedIn about the topic, you know, and, and it got to the point where people knew, okay, human trafficking is Emily's thing.
People would start. Like, I actually had some breaking news that happened last year that I found out because my mom and like someone else texted me the article and I didn't even like. It wasn't on my radar yet, but people knew because that's her thing. Like I got to send her this article. And so I knew like something that happened right away.
So that'll take time obviously and commitment to one thing. But I think if you have that and if you, and again, not to say, Oh, you have to force yourself to be committed. I think it's more, if you're passionate about something, you will find the commitment. But if you have that, people see that and people will come now.
I think the next thing really is like, as maybe harsh, as it sounds like weeding out people who do not have the commitment to the mission for us, it was kind of. Like in the beginning, we didn't have a ton of money to just throw at people to convince them to work for us. So we had to naturally find people who were like, okay, I, you know, I might get paid a little less here, but I really care about the mission.
Obviously we've been able to grow the team since then, but just, and then even now, I mean recently just screening people for, Hey, you know, do you really care about the vulnerable? That's kind of the core of our mission. And so it's not just the job. And there's a lot of, and not to say that, like the job is your life.
I think there's boundaries there too, that are important, but just making sure that people really care about the mission because. Another aspect of being a small business. We used to be a startup. Now, I think when you're a, like past five years old, it's not cute to call yourself a startup anymore. You're like a small business now.
So we're a small business, but just making sure that like the people we get in are passionate about the mission. Like we are, because the nature of being a small business is, and we're, we're kind of now we have, I think, 12 people on the team now we're at that pivot point where people are able more to specialize because we have more people, but especially in the beginning, you've got to find people who are okay with wearing multiple hats.
You know, there's not a lot of, that's not my job. Like you really have to be open to learning and doing different things. And so that's another, you want to look for that flexibility that is someone, does someone care about the North star, the mission enough to be willing to take on different things that they might not expect?
Brandon Stover: [00:44:39] Screened for that, like when you were interviewing or if you were looking for these people and was there a certain questions that you asked or certain things that you were looking for in the person.
Emily Kennedy: [00:44:48] Hmm, that's a good question. I can't think of specific questions, but I think some of it is just seeing their level of flexibility with things that come up, you know, are they willing to negotiate? Are they flexible. If you push back on say they like ask for a salary that you just can't afford, if you push back on that, are, do they come back to you and say, Hey, you know, I actually am really passionate about this.
Can we let's negotiate? So I think it's a lot of that. And I think. Nowadays, especially, I mean, I'm a millennial, I think a lot of millennials are looking for more than pay in their job. They want a mission. Right. And I think that's, I mean, that's such a mentality that I have that obviously pay matters. We want to pair people well, we want them to be satisfied in that way.
That is important. But I think something I think about a lot is that, what do you spend most of your time doing your work probably, and your time is one of your most valuable assets. You can't get it back. So for me, I'm personally willing to flex on other areas when I know that my time is well spent on a mission that I care about.
So that's something I think a lot about. And I think that mentality is becoming more common these days.
Brandon Stover: [00:46:06] Hey, this is brain is Stover, and you're listening to the evolve podcast with Emily Kennedy co-founder of Marinus analytics. And just a moment, you're going to hear about why setting boundaries as a founder is so important and the best tips from Emily
Uh, first, I want to let you know that all the resources and lessons from this episode are available as a free firstname.lastname@example.org and clicking on the worksheet button in the upper right-hand corner all the lessons that Emily is sharing today or. Are super valuable, but they are only as valuable as the ones that you're actually going to put in execution. So that's why I distill all the action items from each episode in one, easy to use step-by-step. So now you can have, I immediately start applying these to your life and business.
lessons, like how to take university research and turn it into a startup idea. How to get funding without venture capital and how to set boundaries as a founder. And so many more, all of these lessons are email@example.com and clicking on the worksheet button in the upper right-hand corner. That's evolve the.world, or you can follow the link inside the show notes of your podcast app.
back to the evolved podcast with Emily Kennedy co-founder Marinus analytics. As she shares the best tip She has found for setting boundaries as a founder
I know you're really big on boundaries and working in a mission driven startup. Like you want to give your everything to it because you're like, Oh, I can, the more I give, the more I can scale my impact, but you are actually have spent a lot of time, like producing habits that create those boundaries.
So maybe what are some unique or usual unusual habits that you have created to help create those boundaries and keep you sane?
Emily Kennedy: [00:47:43] Oh, well, probably the first step was basically having no boundaries in the first, you know, two years or so. And granted, I didn't have a lot else that I was doing. I, at the time, you know, I didn't have like a family unit. I had my parents obviously, but not like I didn't have a partner. I didn't have kids.
And so at that time I was just like sleeping, working. Boxing and, you know, hanging out with friends and it was very limited focus. And so I did that for about two years. It was great. Oh, I can work whenever I want. I can sleep in a fine need to, I can stay up late. I can just shape it to however I want it to be.
Well I met my partner, my husbands, you know, a couple of years into that. And then when we got married, it was like, around that time it started taking more of a toll like, man, I'm, you know, maybe feeling tired or burnt out. I'm getting really stressed on weekends. I'm, you know, checking my email on weekends.
And so he encouraged me to make a couple lifestyle changes. And specifically what I did at that time was not checking email on the weekends. And specifically, I thought this was a fun little hack that he came up with, which I still use to this day. And that I started using it about six years ago is creating actually a separate profile on my laptop for personal Emily.
So I have Mirena's Emily and personal Emily. And that means because my problem was I would log on to check my personal email on the weekend and then see you're working on then your heart rates up. And then you're like, I have to respond right now. So creating that separate profile and my personal emails on my personal profile and my, you know, working miles on my work.
So I wouldn't see stuff that I would then react to. Which most things don't need an immediate response. That's just, it's true. They feel urgent. They make your heart rate go to up, but most things don't need that, at least in my experience in my area. So. Things like that. And then it building, like building blocks on top of that, it was working at the same time, every day, nine to five or eight to five, taking a lunch pudding, a lunch event, invite on my calendar, which I still have because a couple of years ago I started using Calendly, which I love.
I think you use it as well as the best. It's probably my favorite, like thing. If I had to pick a software platform, it'd be Calendly. That's my favorite because you can, you know, send a link to someone you're trying to schedule a meeting with and they can select openings on your calendar. It's synced to your calendar to only show them times that you're free.
And so that was great. Started using that. And then a problem that I had was I didn't have any settings on there. You can put rules about don't schedule more than this number of meetings a day, or there has to be a 15 minute break or whatever. I didn't have any rules in there. So I started getting, you know, six hours of meetings a day, no lunch break.
And then I'm like pissed off, you know, and hungry and it feels selfish. It feels even sometimes like, Oh, I'm being silly that I need to have the lunch break, but you need it. If you're going to work on something for more than in my experience, two to three years, you need those boundaries. You need to eat, you need a break.
Otherwise you will be pissed. You won't do as good of a job as you could do. So things like that. And then, yeah, just having like time batching has been good. Although I need to get back to that where you set your timer for like an hour, you only work on one project. A lot of it is just getting back to those basics that people used to do.
But before technology was so big, like people are like, Oh, I have this like method. It's where I write down five things I have to do. And then I do them one at a time and it's like, well, that sounds pretty simple. It's not really. And the method, it's just like how people use to do things. And I think multitasking, I mean, it's a huge trap.
I still struggle with it for sure. But I think it's a trap to think that we can actually really do more things. Then one at a time. There's a podcast that I really enjoy listening to called the skinny confidential podcast. And she talks about a lot of productivity stuff and she calls it passive multitasking.
That that's the type of multitasking that works for her. So that's like, if you're doing something with your hands, like washing dishes, you can occupy your brain by listening to a podcast. And that, or if you're driving or whatever, that might be dead time, you could fill it with learning about something.
But you know, other stuff where you're switching between tasks that require all of your brain space, you're not multitasking. You're just switching tasks really quickly. And that wears your brain out. I mean, it just totally does. And I felt that so.
And it's hard because you've got a lot of boundaries setting is a relational and like you have to communicate your boundaries. I heard a podcast with this awesome woman, Nina NADRA towag and I just bought her book. I haven't read it yet called boundaries. And she, one of the things that just blew my mind in the interview that I was listening to, that she said was the thing about boundaries is that you have to set boundaries, but then you also have to follow them.
And I was like, Whoa, because how often do we just a simple thing, say, Oh, I have a hard stop at 10 30 on this call. And then it's like 10 35 and the person's still talking. And you're like, ah, I don't know. But you know, when you don't enforce the boundary, you don't actually follow through. It actually tells the other person it's okay.
If we don't respect my boundary, it's fine.
Brandon Stover: [00:53:38] It's not actually an important boundary to follow.
Emily Kennedy: [00:53:41] Exactly. And so I guess it's like realizing that personal responsibility of, I have to actually back up my boundaries with action. If I say I'm not available, I shouldn't be checking my email. If I say I'm going to be off Slack, I shouldn't be on Slack. I'm setting an example to everyone else that, you know, actually my boundaries don't mean that much.
So that really spoke to me like, Whoa, it's not just about, Oh, you're done. Once you say the boundary, like, no, you actually have to enforce it and like live by it.
Brandon Stover: [00:54:11] Yeah. Yeah. Love those. Well I'd like to return to something you mentioned earlier in the interview, which was testifying before Congress, about how AI can be used to combat human trafficking. I'm really curious. What sort of questions or concerns they brought up and how you address those questions?
Emily Kennedy: [00:54:29] That's a great question. Let me think. I mean, I think there's a lot of fear around like data privacy and surveillance and all of that stuff for us. I think it was important to clarify that we don't do surveillance. I think a lot of people think, Oh, traffic jam is like hooked up to security cameras and they're like matching facial recognition matches of people off the street.
Brandon Stover: [00:54:55] Minority report stuff.
Emily Kennedy: [00:54:58] Yeah. And or they're thinking, Oh, they're, you know, hacking into Facebook, private Facebook data and, and matching it or something like that. We do not do that. We only work with data that's publicly available and it's an ongoing debate, you know, data privacy. And what is the public sphere when we're talking about the internet?
So I certainly don't have all the answers there. I think that's an ongoing debate, but it's questions around that. And then questions around. I think, you know, people ask about the AI human collaboration aspect of, well, is this technology just a black box and then the AI is going to mislead us and then, and then everything's going to fall apart.
I think we've got, and again, I'm no AI ethics expert, but when I think about this, I think about the human responsibility that we do have. I think there's a lot of feeling and trend in technology that people want to make the technology so they can blame the technology instead of blaming the human. And the thing is that the technology does not absolve our human responsibility, especially when it comes to areas like law enforcement and you know, human trafficking investigations.
So. Then there's been a lot of talk in the news over the last year, especially about, you know, police brutality and issues in law enforcement. We obviously work with a lot of detectives. Some of them are the best people out there. They really want to do good. They want to do the right thing. But then of course there are those who are not.
And I think what technology does is it can highlight issues that were already there. Right? As far as our place, I think we live in a time where this may be controversial, but every social issue that comes to light on Twitter, every brand or company thinks they need to respond. I think a lot of brands do that out of fear obligation, but not out of an effort to actually do something meaningful about it. And I not to say that, you know, speaking out or making a stand about things is not important. We need that. We need people in the public sphere, like making outcries about different things and raising their voices.
But for me as a business owner, I think about what, what is in our area of influence that we can do? What can we, we can't solve all of police brutality, but what can we do in our area of expertise? And so something we've been thinking about a lot over the last year and obviously, like you mentioned, we work internationally as well.
We work in the UK and Canada and something really interesting that we've seen is that in the UK sex work is legal. So despite that they still have detectives who work on human trafficking, investigations and work on, they call safeguarding, which is essentially focused on meeting the needs of the victim.
It's, I w I would say it's a, quite a bit less punitive focus where I think in law enforcement, there's a lot of the feeling of, we want to get the bad guy, but then sometimes the victim can get lost in that. How does the victim get connected to services that they need and things like that. And so what's been really cool.
Is that we've been able to see a lot of the UK detectives that we work with and how they do things, which is different from how we do it in the U S and just one example is a detective who we work with, who told us, you know, when I'm going to evict them interview, I don't bring a gun. I don't bring anything but a pen take notes, you know?
And just that attitude of. You know, Hey, there's a time for a gun. There's a time for getting the bad guy, but it's not always that time. And so seeing how they've been able to work and take that approach, and then also seeing organizations, including in the U S there was a great story about Denver police department recently about how they've collaborated with successfully with like social workers and mental health experts.
This is, I mean, this is huge because we hear this defund, the place movement. And although it is like a really inflammatory phrase in and of itself, I think there's definitely something to this idea of better collaboration between detectives and like social workers and mental health experts. And so we saw this in Denver.
People can probably Google and find the article, but. What Denver did was they had basically, I think it started with just two mental health experts. They give him a van, they gave him some supplies and a phone number, and they made it known that, Hey, if there's a mental health crisis, you know, if someone is having a mental breakdown or something, you can call these people and they'll come to you and help you work through it.
You know? And if this is like someone who needs access to the social services, they'll help connect you. And what they found was a huge percentage of the calls that this group got was from law enforcement, because they got to a situation, you know, they're, they're mandate is. Typically, you know, stop crime basically.
And if there's not crime going on and there's someone who needs mental health help, then they ended up the law enforcement agents ended up calling this group. Cause they're like, we're not equipped for this. You know, we don't have training for this. Let's call the people who do, because, and this is in their sense.
It's like this isn't what we're supposed to do anyway, you know, let's find the situations where we're needed and focused on that. So. All that, to say that we feel like what we can do tangibly. And what we're working to do is learn from groups in the UK groups like Denver PD, who are doing these kind of newer nontraditional ways of working out these issues, which are very complex.
When you talk about human trafficking. Yeah. You've got a trafficker. Usually there's someone who's making the money. You need like someone to follow the financial trail. You need the detective to arrest the people. Sometimes you need the SWAT team to go into the house and make arrests, but you also have a victim who likely needs access to victim services.
They might just need something simple, like a lunch or, you know, something that can be so powerful for them that you know, a law enforcement agency may just not be equipped to perform. And that's fine. People specialize in different things. So we're working on, an internal. Podcasts that we're putting out for our users where we're going to be interviewing, you know, experts like these who are doing these things about how do you, how did you put this best practice together?
How's it working? How do you, what's the nitty gritty of how you implement that? we can help educate our users on how they can do it too. So very excited about that.
Brandon Stover: [01:01:49] Yeah, I would just want to take a moment to appreciate what you said earlier about, you know, when these problems are being discussed, whether it's, you know, racial injustice or we're talking about human trafficking now instead of just, I guess, value signaling and being, you know, I'm going to speak about this, actually looking in your wheelhouse and saying, okay, what's my expertise.
Where do I have resources? Do I have access to what sort of action can I take to actually make an impact in this space? And you guys have, you know, done all the things that you just mentioned in order to make an impact in the way that you are best equipped to do. So, which I think is amazing.
Emily Kennedy: [01:02:25] You preach it.
Brandon Stover: [01:02:26] Yeah.
Well, one of the things that you guys have also done is moved into cyber crime and like child protection. It's part of your suite now, which is looking at some of the other elements that are around this human trafficking problem, because it's not just human trafficking. As you mentioned, it's like the money flow, all of this, these things.
Can you explain some of the other tech that you guys are creating and why you started creating.
Emily Kennedy: [01:02:51] Yeah. Great. So as listeners could probably tell we're very committed to the mission. And so we had only been doing human trafficking related work for the first, like four or five years. And the reason we started to add these new areas, which again was a very big deal for us because we don't just add new things, you know, just because we started talking with human services agencies that was first And hearing a lot of the same challenges they were having that detectives were having.
It was basically the same challenge, but an indifferent space. So the challenge was too much data and not enough data analysis tools. And so for social workers in particular, it was. Okay. We've got thousands of pages of social worker, case notes that they'll take, you know just hand handwritten or typed from the field when they're interviewing clients or, you know, families that they work with.
And then they input them into their case management system, but they were having trouble getting insights out of them and they were having trouble like understanding which cases might need the most attention at any given time. One of the worst things that you can have in this space is for example, a child death.
And there's been different documentaries that have come out about this where a child unfortunately dies in a certain situation. And so they wanted to prevent things like that happening and figure out, you know, they they're so overloaded in terms of the case work that they have. How can we make sure that we're addressing the ones that any given time need the most attention?
And how do we get insights out of this? Like for instance An agency might know, Oh you know, anecdotally we think that opioid overdoses increased over this three month period, but the ability to actually do topic modeling on those case notes and say, Hey, we actually have the data trends to show you that mentions of opioid overdoses increased over this time.
And that that's topic modeling because it's more than just a keyword search of the word opioid, because there can be different drugs involved, different names, different lingo. And so the ability to track that trend is really important. And so when we heard these pain points as an entrepreneur, a lot of it is like keeping your ear.
Poised to hear those things that we learned in the NSF core program that, you know, mean that there's a pain point there, Oh, we have trouble doing this. We need to get insights out of our data. And it echoed a lot of what we had heard from detectives in the beginning with the human trafficking work. And so the thing that really clinched it for us was realizing over time.
So the way I started personally was like, all I want to do is catch bad guys. That's all I want to do. I would have been like an FBI agent in another life. I'm sure. But that was my main focus then years into it realizing actually there, this is such a complex issue and you know, what are areas that we could influence when it comes to prevention?
And so that's where the social worker aspect comes in is that they deal with a lot of the children before they become exploited before they enter the life for, you know, when they're on the way there. So what if we could empower social workers in the work that they do so that we can help with that prevention side of things.
And so we're working on a tool now to, to help with that basically a software platform to help them get insights out of their data. And then the cyber fraud came because in working with the data and traffic jam, We started to see some weird kind of trends. For instance, the same exact advertisement posted across hundreds of locations in the U S at the same time.
And we're thinking, Hmm, it's probably not likely that there's like one person behind this. And then we started to realize that some of those ads would have links in them that would go to websites that were trying to capture credit card information, like, Oh, put in your credit card and then you'll get access to these dating profiles or whatever, or you'll get a date.
And so we started to realize, Hey, this looks like kind of large scale cyber fraud. Like, and it wouldn't be that. Well, there's some, some parts of it that would be hard to execute, I guess, but the pattern essentially indicates that this could be linked to organized crime. There's been millions of dollars that have been lost due to cyber fraud, like romance scams online.
And so we thought, okay, we need to at least draw attention to this what is happening? And so we worked, we partnered with IBM actually to build some tools, to help us get more data on this. So this involves you know, interacting with those sketchy advertisements through chatbots to try to, you know, gather what is, what is the additional URL that they want to send to me to sort of thing.
And then building out. What is this network, this group look like. So that's kind of what we're in the process. Now that project is most in its infancy, but we're working with different groups like attorney General's offices who often prosecute this type of activity to figure out what they need, you know, what are their pain points?
What type of groups are they looking for? So that we can kind of contribute to a solution to that problem as well.
Brandon Stover: [01:08:22] well, we are gonna run on time before I run out of questions. So I only have a few more, but one that I'd like to touch on. What does be a thermostat, but not a thermometer mean to you?
Emily Kennedy: [01:08:36] I love that phrase. So that's something that my dad told me as like a kid in elementary school. And it's this idea that as we go through our lives, we. Have influences around us, right? I mean, it's unavoidable. We have people and things that influence us. But what my dad was trying to get me to understand is that I had the choice of whether I wanted to be a thermostat to set the temperature around me, or if I want it to be a thermometer, just reflect what's going on around me.
Just be influenced by others, but not really kind of having any intentionality about what I was doing. And I grew up like not the coolest kid, like just kinda like rough and tumble girl doing my own thing. I didn't have like cute hair. Like the other girls had, I'd barely brushed my hair in the morning.
Cause it's was a waste of time in my mind. And. I just grew up, not like in the cool club. And I think that was actually really important. Not that I want my kids, like not to be cool, but I think there's like an element of learning how to function without people validating you, I guess, constantly, and being able to be your own person, really it's just independence ability to make your own decisions.
And so I think that paired with the quote that my dad told me, I've thought about it a lot and that, you know, I don't want to just be a thermometer, just reflecting what's going on around me or just being blown by the wind because. If you're just influenced by others around you, which we all are to some extent, but if you're solely influenced by others around you, I mean, you could just be blown in any direction.
You don't really have a direction. And I think being a thermometer is all about having a direction, having a mission, and then being able to set that temperature for others. And I think as an entrepreneur, that's been really effective and important for me to be able to set the temperature around you and set cast a sort of vision or a mission that people want to join you in. And kind of all be moving in the same direction. And that's been really exciting.
Brandon Stover: [01:10:48] Yeah, well, before I get to my last question, where can everybody find you and arenas analytics.
Emily Kennedy: [01:10:54] Totally. So connection with me anywhere I'm at. Hey, Emily Kennedy on LinkedIn on Twitter, on Instagram. I'm on my website is Emily kennedy.org. If you're interested in seeing more of my public speaking or press that I've done, and then Merna see analytics is Mernissi analytics.com. That's M a R I N U S analytics.com.
We're also at Marianas AI on Twitter. If you're interested in learning more about human trafficking or data analytics, specifically we're hiring currently and often hiring and you can also sign up on our website for our public newsletter, where we share again, more info about human trafficking education and data and AI.
Brandon Stover: [01:11:38] Well, I definitely recommend everybody go check that out. I mean, we didn't get to the X prize or your empower podcast or other things, so there's still lots more to find out about you. But it's my last question is how can we push the world to evolve?
Emily Kennedy: [01:11:54] Yeah. So when I think about pushing the world to evolve and kind of what my journey has been, I think it's really just about being your authentic self. And I know this probably sounds a little cliche, but I think in my experience when you fake it, people can tell when you're faking it, when you're not being true to yourself when you're not being authentic.
Even kind of coming into my own as a woman entrepreneur, I was reading all the entrepreneur books out there, and most of them are written by men and I started to kind of apply everything to my life. And there was times when I would try to handle a situation in a more aggressive fashion and. I knew in the moment that it wasn't really authentic to me that it didn't feel right, but it's still, I still tried it.
And I could tell that others knew it wasn't right to, they could tell that it wasn't authentic to me. And so learning how to kind of be myself, be a female entrepreneur, I definitely have like masculine and feminine characteristics about me, but just learning how to like synthesize what I was learning and then express it in my own way.
I think people can tell authenticity. And so, you know, just really trying to figure out what is your authentic self and expression of that, and then just being yourself. Because I think that naturally helps the world evolve when we all try to be the same as each other. I think that's where the world stops evolving when we all try to follow the same mold.
So I think just being your authentic self is a natural way and the world will kind of evolve around you.
Brandon Stover: [01:13:32] Yeah, I think that's so important. Being really honest with yourself of what, you know, you're willing to actually portray to other people, what sort of actions you're willing to take. And not trying to be somebody else than who you are, like owning who you are. And I think entrepreneurship and being a founder is one of the few job roles that you can actually do that you can create the sort of founder that you want to be.
You don't have to follow somebody else's playbook. And that's why, you know, I interview so many different people. I'm sure it's similar for you that just to bring those perspectives in and finding the ones that work for you and don't use it, the ones that don't.
Emily Kennedy: [01:14:05] totally goodness. At a better.
Brandon Stover: [01:14:07] right. Well, Emily, thank you so much for coming on the show.
I really appreciate it.
Emily Kennedy: [01:14:11] Thank you random. This is awesome.
Brandon Stover: [01:14:13] that was Emily Kennedy. Co-founder at Marinus analytics, which develops and deploys technologies to the hands of law enforcement advancing their ability to fight crimes like human trafficking, using machine learning and big data technology.
My favorite part of this interview was how Emily broke down. Step-by-step how she took her research and turned it into a startup academics, and researchers have so much information in data, around everything from health to the environment. And if they were able to work with those who know how to turn this information into something of value to everyday consumers, the potential for capitalism to scale the impact of these solutions is immense.
So if you're somebody that's in a university or a research institution right now who is on the forefront of your field, think about the implications of how your research could be used in a business to reach more people. You may not see yourself as an entrepreneur, but neither did Emily. Now, if you wanted an easy to use resource full of all the lessons from this episode, they were available as a free downloadable firstname.lastname@example.org and clicking on the worksheet button in the upper right-hand corner. You can also find it on the show notes and transcripts. From this episode uh, evolve the.world/episode/ Emily Kennedy.