Miami-based facial recognition firm Kairos is one of five startups run by women and founders from underrepresented groups that will be moving into Morgan Stanley’s headquarters for three months of incubation in its new startup accelerator.
By launching an Innovation Lab, Morgan Stanley is trying to get in on the ground floor in technology and diversity, nurturing emerging tech talent among women and people of color.
Morgan Stanley is hardly the first financial services firm to start a tech incubator. Other banks are also working closely with the startup ecosystem to get a piece of tech solutions for the future, Finance Magnates reported. British banking giant Barclays recently opened a similar accelerator in Mumbai. Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase have teams dedicated to serving the banking needs of tech-based companies.
Any startup with seed funding was eligible to apply at Morgan Stanley, as long as they had a “multicultural” or female founder, chief technology officer or other member of the C-suite. The bank chose five companies for its first batch but plans to build to 15 with hopes of rivaling other accelerators such as TechStars and Y Combinator.
Successful applicants will receive $200,000 in investment in the form of equity or convertible notes, space in the Morgan Stanley global headquarters, support from the bank’s network of potential customers and “impactful content relevant to company growth and scale,” according to Financial Times.
Brian Brackeen is the founder of Kairos, a facial recognition company that is working with companies to change the way they interact with their employees, patients, and customers.
— Brian Brackeen (@BrianBrackeen) August 2, 2017
Kairos is the only facial biometrics company in the world offering both facial recognition and emotion analysis tools for developers.
In his role as CEO, Brackeen has managed explosive growth at the firm, raising more than $5 million in venture capital.
“When you look at the percentage of Americans that are black versus the percentage of venture capital that goes to entrepreneurs, the disparity is clear,” Brackeen said in a Moguldom video interview. “While there are very few blacks in venture capital, there are a larger numbers in private equity, pension funds and hedge funds. I’d like to see those people do more.”
Morgan Stanley’s first batch of five startups are headed for the ninth floor of global financial services firm’s headquarters in Times Square, New York for three months. The startups include Landit, AptDeco, GitLinks and Trigger.
“We’ve seen a lot of the rhetoric around the gap between the ability to access capital for multicultural entrepreneurs and women, especially outside of Silicon Valley,” said Alice Vilma, executive director of the bank’s multicultural client strategy committee. “If companies are scalable, bankable and investable, and if the only thing they lack is access to capital and networks, we’ll provide that with early-stage growth capital.”
Brackeen hopes to disrupt the security and marketing worlds with his new technology, bringing artificial intelligence to facial recognition.
To make that happen, he needs investment. “I come from a middle-class African American family in Philly,” Brackeen said in a Morgan Stanley report. “I’m not that guy from an affluent family who went to an Ivy League school and has a huge college network of friends in banking and hedge funds.”
The Innovation Lab is the brainchild of Carla Harris, a Morgan Stanley vice chairwoman of and head of its Multicultural Client Strategy Group.
“Only a small fraction of all venture capital money is given to multicultural and women entrepreneurs,” Harris said. “Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley is a leader at the intersection of what these companies need: capital, connections, and investment banking content. We have the resources, access to relationships, and the expertise that can help refine these businesses and hopefully attract capital to scale up in size.”
Brackeen told Morgan Stanley he believes his technology can have large-scale applications. “For example, it could scan the minute changes in facial emotions of hundreds of people screen-testing a new movie, and then parse audience reactions by age, gender, ethnicity and attention span—all valuable insights for film executives and marketers trying to figure out what works, what doesn’t, and how to bring it to market.”
In mid-November, the startups will get a chance to make sales pitches at a Morgan Stanley symposium with potential investors.