The Center-City based software company has been a staple in the Philly tech community for these past 10 years, and longer, in the case of its founders.
Nucci sat down with Technical.ly to talk about advancements in the company’s technology and reflect on its evolution, pandemic and all.
AI integration in products
In time for the anniversary, Guru is announcing an expansion to a new product.
Guru released the tool Answers in private beta in May. The AI-based tool allows users to ask a question and get a result that’s sourced from an internal document, messaging tool, knowledge base, or any app that has been connected to Guru’s knowledge management platform.
This week the company announced that Answers is in open beta and also available in more integrations, including Box, Confluence, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Salesforce Knowledge, SharePoint and Zendesk Guide.
Nucci, who cofounded Guru with Mitch Stewart in 2013 after his first company, Boomi, was sold to Dell in 2010, thinks there is value to integrating artificial intelligence technology in the workplace. However, users must trust the source and accuracy of the information, too.
“[Answers is] going to tell you in the answer, ‘Here’s where I got the answer from.’ So you can see clearly what was used, which was sort of step one there,” the CEO said. “Step two, it’s going to tell you who within the company has actually verified that this answer you’re looking at is actually based on accurate knowledge.” There is also an option to ask someone in the company to verify information if it isn’t already verified.
For the first five years of Guru, the company wasn’t doing much with AI, Nucci said, until the company started working on its own AI-based product in 2019. This product, AI Suggest, would help customer service support agents to quickly receive and relay accurate information to customers.
Last December, after ChatGPT came out and discussion around generative AI picked up, the company’s leaders looked more seriously at how it could use AI. The Answers tool was the next step for them, per Nucci, since AI seemed to be so good at finding and pulling out specific information.
“What we saw with the generative AI capabilities that we’ve now built into Guru is it’s really really good at that,” Nucci said. “It will be able to do what used to be the whole Ctrl F thing where you have to go down and find it yourself. It will sort of pull that out and it’ll bring it up to you and put it right in front of you.”
Reflecting on 10 years
Thanks to his work on his first company and past leadership roles with Philly Startup Leaders, Nucci himself is a mainstay in the local tech community. Guru counts local clients including Benefits Data Trust, Seer Interactive and Crossbeam. At the time of Crossbeam’s Series C in 2021, CEO Bob Moore cited Guru as one of the reasons why investors were willing to take a chance on a Philly company:
Previous teams spent so much time and energy explaining to investors why a Philly company was worthy, but between the pandemic — no need to travel for pitch meetings — and the region seeing record-breaking raises so far this year, that notion is gone.
“We don’t spend time pitching Philly anymore, they already believe it’s a great place to start a company,” Moore said of investors. “And we owe that to people like the folks at dbt, DuckDuckGo, Guru — those people who are a few steps ahead of us who have kind of shown the way that you can build these businesses.”
Guru also saw some financial wins during the pandemic, closing a $30 million Series C round in the spring of 2020, as the venture market was beginning its unprecedented pandemic ascent. The company has raised $70 million in funding to date.
As far as highlights go, Nucci said he remembers the pandemic as a time when Guru’s culture grew even stronger, when the team came together to support each other and their clients. (The company declined to share its current headcount.)
Reflecting on what he would do differently, Nucci said he would encourage “radical candor” — giving direct, challenging feedback while also communicating care about the recipient — earlier with his team. Early on in the company, he said, he struggled to give feedback honestly and directly, while still being kind.
“Since then we’ve embraced this approach to feedback at Guru, running ongoing practice sessions and incorporating it into our core values,” Nucci said. “I believe it has made our culture stronger, strengthened the way our teams collaborate, and helped us to better serve our customers.
His industry is hard because customers tend to try multiple solutions and then give up because they can’t find an information sharing system that works for them, he said. He wants Guru to be leading the industry, showing people how to solve their information challenges.
“While AI is going to change so many things, it can really, really change and level up the way companies can solve this problem,” Nucci said. “And I think we are at a moment here where there’s a new fresh look at a problem that has been around forever.”Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
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