With the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing social distancing measures, everyone is spending a great deal of time online, let alone kids. But because kids are more vulnerable and prone to cyber threats in the virtual space including phishing, bullying, harassment, theft, etc., it is crucial to supervise their online engagement and ensure their safety with due respect to their privacy. Fran Killoway, a well-renowned Inventor and the Founder and Executive Chairman of ‘meka’, an intuitive application that works as a digital buddy to safeguard its user from threats in the digital space using artificial intelligence, was frazzled to see that modern technology was unable to protect our kids online in near real-time while respecting their privacy. She exclaims, “Kids are our future and we find today’s bad behavior online abhorrent, and it needs to stop”.
Fran has been contributing to the creation, development, and delivery of technology for over 20 years now. Her prior establishment Merlin has been a huge learning curve for her that equipped her with the necessary tools and rare skill to begin to successfully launch meka in the United States. It has proved several who believed such a technology is not possible wrong. meka is working as the first intelligent computer-generated companion, tutor, and friend for flagging abusive behavior on social media, the internet, and the world. Fran explains, “meka has a very sophisticated permission-based system that utilizes cutting edge Neural Network technology, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning. It benefits the users by allowing independent and safe internet surfing, social inclusion in a safe environment, access applications without fear, and ensured safety and protection from bad behavior on social media and the internet. Empowered by Machine Empathy technology, it learns from each user, to understand their individual needs and preferences”. Initially monitoring the six most popular social media sites, and the six worst online sites, it sits in each user’s device keeping an eye on 28 potential threat categories including abuse in relationships, abuse in neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse/sexual harassment, nasty messages, humiliation, rumours/gossip, fake identity, domestic violence, self-harm, stalking, bullying, hate speech, issues of climate change, voyeurism and several others. As a cyber-safety application that uses artificial intelligence, it provides a 24/7 notification system of potential threats and abuse in real-time, providing the user the privacy and security they need online. Fran emphasizes that this technology will further reduce mental healthcare costs and ensure the user is economically active by encouraging those who are currently afraid to use a computer to feel safe and empowered in their world.
“Success is measured by yourself and what you set out to achieve. The greatest thing any entrepreneur can achieve is to ensure that people know the benefits of who you are, and what you have to offer”.
Being a woman and that too, of Fran’s age, has its challenges when it comes to breaking through people’s assumptions and prove one’s knowledge in the field of AI technology, Machine Learning, and Neural Networks. It was speculated that she won’t be able to develop meka and yet it exists today. Her capabilities and her potential might come as a wonder to many who have reservations, but a mastermind like her shouldn’t have faced skepticism in the first place. The outstanding contribution she has made to this field can easily be estimated by the awards and recognitions earned by her platform, Frasil for bringing a radical change and bridging the gap between caregivers and the people with disability, which includes the 2020 Global Excellence Awards and being mentioned in APAC CIO Outlook magazine’s Top 10 Artificial Intelligence Consulting/Services Companies 2018 and Top 10 Artificial Intelligence Solution Providers 2019.
Apart from Fran’s experience in technology, she has a passion and proficiency for anthropology, philosophy, psychology, sociology and linguistics, research methodology, political behaviors and strategies, strategy and market direction, and the building and commercializing of businesses and their products and services. However, as she goes about delivering technology, she’s always amazed at how women have evolved. She says, “When it comes to business, adapting to the twists and turns can be difficult, especially if your road is really throwing you for a loop. A lot of women that I meet show enormous adaptability, leading them to greater job satisfaction and performance. It’s important for women to remember their purpose and to maintain their confidence while still being innovative and collaborative”.
“Today’s challenges are greater than ever, which requires a leadership that is both agile and changes according to current market environments”.
From a Torch-Bearer to a Phenomenal Leader
Fran leads with both vulnerability and humility and these are the qualities she strives to instil in her team of strong-minded, intelligent, and successful professionals who are as passionate about meka. She allows them enough space to develop their individual skills and grow the business with a united effort on every front. She believes beyond any definition of leadership; its true meaning hides in the way a leader impacts the lives of others based on their experience. Even everyone at meka comes from different backgrounds of life, they never hesitate to look up to leaders for guidance and advice.For Fran, the quality of communication with a strong sense of integrity should be a basic characteristic every leader possesses. She exclaims, “It is important to be simple and direct for people to listen, understand, and encourage input throughout the different teams at meka. It is important to remain transparent for everyone at meka to understand the values of trust and understanding to build the best team of managers and employees, to provide the best of what meka has to offer each user”.
When asked what keeps her motivated even at the age most people start planning their retirement. Fran says, “Today’s challenges are greater than ever, which requires a leadership that is both agile and changes according to current market environments. Managing workplace flexibility is different now and will continue to be different in the future, but the focus on integrity and vision drives the meka organization. Being a successful woman in business means having the courage to own who you are, why you are doing what you do, and how you can apply your vision to positively impact the world”.
‘Success is measured by yourself’
In the end, Fran shared a message to all aspiring front runners. She says, “Every successful entrepreneur starts somewhere. If you believe something, then follow that belief with passion and persistence. My personal belief is that, even at 68, I am just starting to understand how little I really know. I spend a great deal of my time engaging with successful women from all walks of life. But I think the most important thing for everyone to remember is that success is measured by yourself and what you set out to achieve. The greatest thing any entrepreneur can achieve is to ensure that people know the benefits of who you are, and what you have to offer”.