A publicly-traded data analytics company in Jacksonville, Fla., saw value in a Philly startup called HeavyWater — makers of an artificial intelligence platform aimed at mortgage processing.
Mortgage services firm Black Knight announced Monday it acquired University City’s HeavyWater, which has a team of 14 based out of the Innovation Center @3401.
“AI, machine learning and neural network solutions are the future of delivering enhanced efficiencies and capabilities to our clients,” Black Knight CEO Anthony Jabbour said in an email. “We are very excited about the potential HeavyWater has to offer.”
The Philly company, founded by Soofi Safavi, says it had not received any institutional capital prior to the acquisition, but got “less than six-figures from one minor angel investor,” said Chief Revenue and Financial Officer David Luk, a former principal at Safeguard Scientifics who left his post in April to join the company.
HeavyWater’s flagship product is AIVA (which stands for Artificial Intelligence Virtual Assistant), a digital tool that Safavi says is already helping mortgage companies process financial documents, freeing up workers from performing repetitive tasks.
“This will help companies automate activities and allow its resources to focus on things that humans are uniquely qualified for: like empathy, creativity,” said Safavi, a graduate of Rutgers and former CTO at Philly-based mortgage company Radian Group. “Our goal is to create a digital workforce to help companies gain competitiveness and efficiency.”
AIVA — which, Safavi said, has a female identity only because the acronym yielded a female-sounding name — currently has a basic understanding of the mortgage industry, its terms and associated documentation.
“Compared to where we want to have AIVA, we have a road ahead of us,” Safavi said. “I’d say we’re at 4 percent of that journey.”
But amid concerns that algorithms are perpetuating racial bias, and in an industry often called out for racial discrimination the founder wanted to be very clear: AIVA is not meant to make any decisions on whether a person should or shouldn’t be approved , the founder said.
“We’re focused on automating the work and activity that the will let underwriter make the final decision,” Safavi said. “We’re automating tasks and discriminatory lending is not a factor when you’re just reading bank statements and asset positions. It’s about numbers, PDF’s and extracting data.”
The acquisition, the founder said, will let the company add more capabilities to the technology it has built so far and continue to build out its team.