Humane execs leave company to found AI fact-checking startup

As Humane struggles to find its footing in the nascent world of AI hardware, two top employees have exited the company to found their own startup. It’s a story that, in some ways, echoes Humane’s own origin story, as founders Bethany Bongiorno and Imran Chaudhri left longtime roles at Apple to launch their own company.

Former Humane Strategic Partnerships Lead Brooke Hartley Moy and Head of Product Engineering Ken Kocienda are wisely staying away from the fraught world of hardware with Infactory, a kind of fact-checking search engine. The project is still in its infancy, but the founders spoke to TechCrunch about their plans — a dramatic shift from Humane’s pre-launch secrecy.

Naturally, AI will play an important role in the project. For one thing, Kocienda, who has his own 16-year history with Apple, began working in the space well before Humane’s launch. For another, it’s next to impossible to launch a startup in 2024 without some upfront AI pitch.

According to Hartley Moy and Kocienda, who now serve as CEO and CTO, respectively, one thing that will set Infactory apart from others is the knowledge of when to — and more importantly, when not to — use AI. Large language models (LLMs) will be utilized to create a more natural language interface with the platform, so users won’t have to type in various configurations of words in order to get the intended results.

AI will not, however, be implemented in the results themselves. Unlike Google’s current search results, which prioritize a Gemini summary of information, Infactory will pull information directly from trusted resources, citation included. While people will no doubt continue to question the accuracy of any given source, the new service won’t be subject to the same sorts of hallucinations that plague the current crop of generative AI services.

Infactory will utilize subscription pricing, aimed at enterprise customers, rather than consumers. Potential clients for the service include newsrooms and research facilities. Rather than wading into far more objective subjects like politics, the service will be focused exclusively on data at launch.

Kocienda offers as an example a financial publication that is looking to directly compare the annual financials of two separate companies. It’s a relatively easy search, but one can envision examples that might be more difficult to come by. To use an example nearer to my heart, say you want to compare how many Apple and Samsung devices were sold in the past five years. The service would locate and collate that information.

In launching a fact-checking engine, one needs to ensure the information is being drawn from the most accurate sources available.

“Our goal here is to be selective from a partnership perspective,” Hartley Moy said. “Not all data partners are created equal. I think the reason that we are focusing more on the data vendors over the content providers is that, when it comes to things that are more computational, more based in fact, their business is ensuring that those things are accurate.”

Infactory has thus raised a pre-seed, though its founders declined to confirm the amount or investors. Seed funding will be a focus for the next “six to 18 months,” per Hartley Moy.

The founders acknowledge that their exit from Humane arrived as their former employer has been awash with post-launch struggles. After the much-hyped Ai Pin arrived to scathing reviews and broader consumer disinterest, Humane laid off 10 people and has more recently been rumored to be exploring a sale.

Ultimately, however, both of Infactory’s co-founders deny that their decision to found their own company was a direct result of Humane’s much publicized struggles.

“Hardware is hard,” Kocienda told TechCrunch. “Starting a company is hard. Putting your life’s work out there for it to be judged by the world — as we’re learning — takes a lot of guts and special skills and personalities. I have endless respect for founders and anyone who’s willing to take that kind of risk. I think it’s good for the industry overall to have people that do want to take those risks — that the entire pace of innovation isn’t being set by a handful of conglomerates. I like the idea of scrappy startups trying to put out new hardware and software solutions.”

As for Infactory’s own launch, Hartley Moy says it’s coming in a matter of months.