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Oxford fellow aims to revolutionise life with mood-mapping technology app Gyana
An entrepreneur and fellow at Oxford University is hoping to change the face of the future for the good of humankind with her groundbreaking company Gyana, which reads emotional intelligence through data, writes FinBuzz..
Joyeeta Das, CEO of Gyana — whose name means “true knowledge” in Sanskrit — trained as an engineer before completing an MBA at Oxford University, where she got the inspiration for her company.
Gyana uses mathematical models to track social media and analyse key terms, and taps into space technologies such as satellite imagery in order to create a satellite image that reads the different moods of pockets of the population. For example, an image of central London shows the city covered with a multitude of different coloured dots (blue showing people who are bored, red showing anger, green showing excitement and yellow showing happiness). Unfortunately, on a recent viewing, most of central London seemed to have the blues.
“I called Gyana ‘true knowledge’ because that’s what we are discovering,” says Das, 30.
“We are able to combine big data and complex data analytics to show patterns in all walks of life. By connecting big data we start seeing patterns in everything: pollution levels, oil spills, consumer happiness, or even a mood in a city. By integrating everything to do with social media using intuitive technology, we can even pattern peoples’ happiness.”
The product is being developed in stages. From next year it will have more B2B customers, and by 2019 it will be B2C.
“We want it to be a direct app that individuals can use,” says Das. “For example, you can use the app to monitor your mood, your own emotions. The app will force people to have high integrity, employees can no longer lie, things will be revolutionised.”
Das created Gyana with a team of 12 people from 11 different countries, five of whom have PhDs. Together they speak 12 different languages — not to mention the language of data, which they all speak fluently.
If, as the old saying goes, behind every great man is a great woman, in this case it’s the other way round: after a series of random encounters, Das employed as Gyana’s CTO artificial intelligence researcher David Kell.
“I met Dave at one of the networking events, and after that we kept running into each other in the same sunset spot in Port Meadows, Oxford,” recalls Das.
“We kept meeting again by mistake and one day I actually told him, ‘Hey, this is my chill out zone, not yours.’ I knew that Dave was doing a PhD in physics and that was the exact subject matter I needed for Gyana, so I asked him to come and work with me.
“He was just lying in the grass. I thought, this is strange, having an interview with a guy lying on the grass. So I had to get down there and lie on the grass too,” says Das, laughing.
“David is really amazing at what he does. Without him it would be really impossible for me to do what we are doing. We both have a very similar vision of the future of the company — we never argue or differ about business decisions. No one else can understand us, we talk about work constantly. We eat, breathe, talk, sleep Gyana — but that’s because we love what we do. All the scientists at Gyana love what they do, they are like artists, living for a passion and a vision,” says Das.
But companies can’t run on enthusiasm alone — at least, not indefinitely. After her team worked all hours for an entire year without pay, Das decided that it was time to get some venture capital funding into the company. Oxford University and Almington Capital had provided Gyana with its initial startup seed funding, but they needed funds to start paying salaries and continue development. It didn’t take long. Das recently closed the first round of seed funding, receiving $2 million from three investors — including the world’s largest company in its sector and a household name — in exchange for an equity stake of 10 percent. Her business is currently independently valued at $12 million, but Das expects it to be worth a lot more by next year once the product is developed further.
Das is delighted that this Christmas, her faithful team will finally have some money to enjoy themselves.
“We have an amazing team of people working for us, from all over the world,” she says. “I am aware that my staff are so talented that they could draw big salaries from the likes of Google, but they prefer to work for me because if they aren’t changing the future, they aren’t excited. Scientists are like artists: you can’t hold them to ransom, they will only work for the bigger picture.”
In addition to running Gyana, Das is a fellow at the Entrepreneurship Centre at Oxford University. She runs and manages the VIEW programme at Oxford’s Said Business School, which Das describes as “a programme created to help entrepreneurs to build and launch their ideas.
“Oxford university created the plan so that students with clever ideas could get the support they need to take those business ideas to the real world,” she explains. “The programme has had a lot of success, with a number of Oxford graduates launching companies at the Web Summit.”
Das teaches some business classes as part of the programme, which she says she finds rewarding.
“Being a fellow, anyone can approach you. I am everything to them: a business mentor, a self-confidence coach, sometimes an agony aunt. I hold a couple of appointments every week and also play a role in selecting the applicants that get chosen every year. We have to filter through the hundreds of students that apply,” she explains.
Das draws on her Indian roots to keep up her impressive and enviable pace of activity.
“That’s very easy,” she answers, when asked how she finds the energy to perform all her different roles. “I meditate. I grew up with meditation in my family in India and I love it. I get up two hours before I need to in order to practice my particular style of meditation, the Isha technique.”
And Das says she has influenced the rest of the Gyana team, who now all do meditation before coming to work.
“It’s my dream one day to have an onsite yoga and meditation facility so anyone can meditate in the day when they want or need to,” says Kell, Gyana’s CTO.
Das is not only a champion of scientific development; she’s also heavily involved in charity work. In India, while working with Cisco, she started the Anahata Life foundation, an NGO dedicated to helping suffering people around the world. The organisation now has hundreds of volunteers.
Das’ vision was to “bring together arts and sciences in order to help create solutions for world problems. A unique way to marry technology and creativity!” as the NGO’s website puts it.
“It’s amazing what happens when you put together a housewife and a banker to work on something to help others. They combine their talents and in doing so have amazing results,” smiles Das.
“‘Anahata’ means ‘unstruck, unhurt, unbeaten,’ and Anahata Life is a conglomeration of volunteer scientists, sculptors, photographers, politicians, filmmakers, mathematicians, dancers, novelists and engineers, volunteering to help the wounded,” she explains.
Anahata’s projects include helping the people of Nepal following last year’s earthquake, providing food for malnourished boys and fighting the virus known as swine flu.
Das goes to India once a year to continue her involvement in Anahata, and also performs pro bono consulting for the Isha Foundation, a non-profit spiritual organisation.
Through these initiatives and of course through her innovative mood mapping company Gyana, Das genuinely hopes to make the world a better place for everyone.
“We can’t change the past but we can change the future,” she says.
This story first appeared in FinBuzz.
Photo: Scott Robinson