This post was originally produced for Forbes.
David Shrier left MIT after adopting the school’s mission and applying it to his artificial intelligence startup, Distilled Analytics. He’s hoping to disrupt impact measurement for companies and investors alike with the company’s new product, Distilled Impact.
“MIT’s mission is to solve the world’s biggest problems through technology,” Shrier says. “We spun out of MIT to look at how can we apply the tools of data and analytics and AI to help address the world’s biggest problems.”
“Distilled Analytics is applying data science to critical issues of activating private capital to build a better world,” he says.
“I was inspired to follow this path when I woke up one day and realized I couldn’t explain to my young children Julia and Henry what daddy does for a living,” he says.
He left his prior employer with people he admits not liking to join MIT, where he spent five years. At Distilled Analytics, he’s built a team he likes, including MIT professors Sandy Pentland and Roberto Rigobon along with Alex Lipton, whom he describes as the “legendary Wall Street quant.”
Watch the full interview with Shrier in the video player at the top of this article.
“We want to create structural solutions to society-scale problems by using advanced analytics,” he says.
So, what does Distilled Impact do? In Shrier’s words: “Distilled IMPACT provides investors with objective, quantitative, 3rd-party-sourced (vs self-reported) AI-driven assessments of the non-financial impacts and risks of their investments.”
Using new computational social science from MIT called “social physics,” Distilled Impact analyzes vast amounts of public information to measure environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) data.
“With the advent of things like the Internet of Things and other ubiquitous data networks, we were able to come up with third-party, credible, quantitative data sources and new kinds of analytics that leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to measure instead of guess,” Shrier says.
“The methodologies that we use are transparent,” he says. The dashboard provided by the platform gives scoring around the “E.S. and G. factors” that users can drill down on so they can see how the scoring was achieved.
Shrier challenges people to get more comfortable with data. He acknowledges that it feels a bit like eating oatmeal. “But we live in a world immersed in data and where our data is is out there and we need to understand better what our data is how it’s being used and what our rights are with respect to that data.”
The SAAS system is cloud-based. It is designed for institutional investors and family offices that seek both profits and impact.
One key point of distinction, Shrier notes, is that unlike other systems that pull data only on public companies, Distilled Analytics can provide data on 260 million companies, including many private ones.
Shrier notes that the system will save time for both investors and for company executives. The system doesn’t require the company to generate any new reports or data. The evaluation uses publicly available information.
Shrier, says his superpower is synthesis, his ability to take lots of complicated ideas and condense them into a new product or a new opportunity. Impact investors now have an opportunity to judge for themselves using Distilled Impact.
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Devin is a journalist, author and corporate social responsibility speaker who calls himself a champion of social good. With a goal to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems by 2045, he focuses on telling the stories of those who are leading the way! Learn more at DevinThorpe.com!