Understanding language add context
By drawing on a combination of deep learning and natural language processing, DeepJudge has made a quantum leap in semantic understanding and context awareness. “In 2017, I joined the Google Assistant research team at Google AI Language and stayed for two-and-a-half years. The experience I gained there has been invaluable,” says Grnarova. While working on the text-to-speech version of Google Assistant, she taught the artificial intelligence to condense a lengthy text and summarise the key points in just a few sentences. This required the AI to understand the content on the semantic level. Grnarova’s work on DeepJudge was also inspired by her internship in core machine learning at Google Brain, where she gained important insights into how models learn and what they look at to make decisions.
“I was incredibly fortunate to be working on my doctorate just as researchers were starting to develop deep learning and neural networks. The artificial intelligence revolution was in full swing and it was becoming clear that computers could perform certain tasks to a superhuman degree,” she says. DeepJudge is one of the first generation of ETH spin-offs to be supported by the AI Center. Grnarova’s inspiration for bringing AI to the legal profession came from her former ETH professor Thomas Hofmann, who had previously launched a successful start-up in this field.
New role as CEO
Prior to becoming CEO at DeepJudge, Grnarova had always helped write the code for every project and had primarily been in charge of the technical aspects. Now, however, she has an entirely new set of responsibilities, working at the interface between clients, investors and her employees. Her pitches and presentations no longer focus on technical issues; instead, they highlight the problems her software can solve and explain why customers should buy it. Grnarova has faced a steep learning curve as CEO – and her rapid success speaks volumes for her adaptability.
“I do miss programming sometimes, though the truth is that it gets a bit lonely writing your own code year after year, as I did for my doctoral thesis. That’s why it’s such a nice change to be working with a team as CEO,” she says. One year after founding DeepJudge, Grnarova already employs 14 people; during that time, she and her team have won awards and prizes worth over half a million Swiss francs. The philanthropic initiative Venture Kick has just injected another 150,000 Swiss francs into the company, and Grnarova recently gained a place on the prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
The Forbes accolade triggered a media storm that even reached her home country of North Macedonia, where her story was featured on national TV. Asked what she misses most about her country of birth, she can’t help smiling. “Family, friends and the social life that is such a big part of Macedonian culture – much more than it is here,” she says. She clearly believes in lifelong friendships built on solid foundations, and she thinks entrepreneurs need to be equally discerning in choosing the best people to collaborate with. “When you set up a company together, you inevitably have bad times as well as good, so it’s crucial to have a team of founders who support each other and have the same goals. That’s the secret to success; but, even more importantly, it’s what defines the kind of journey you share along the way,” she says before disappearing into the WOW Museum’s maze of mirrors.