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Meeri Haataja

Inspirational Female Founder Spotlight: Meeri Haataja

Meeri Haataja is the CEO and Founder of Saidot. With over 20 years of experience in tech, Meeri is a passionate advocate of responsible and human-centric AI. Meeri was the chair of the ethics working group in Finland’s national AI programme that submitted its final report in March 2019, and former Chair of IEEE’s AI Ethics Certification and Impact Use Cases Initiatives. Meeri has been a member of Snap Inc.’s Safety Advisory Board since June 2023.

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

I founded Saidot in 2018 – it is an AI governance and alignment platform helping businesses safely and transparently integrate AI into their operations. Saidot’s SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) platform is used by major companies and public organisations to apply systematic AI governance, enabling the level of transparency needed to ensure businesses are held to account and can meet growing regulatory requirements.

Before Saidot was founded, I started my career as an analyst in telecommunications, having completed an M.Sc (Econ) at Helsinki School of Economics. I have a long background in analytics and AI consulting, most notably with Accenture Analytics where I worked in driving data and analytics strategies and large AI implementation programmes across the fintech, media, telecommunications, high-tech, and retail industries.

How did the idea come to you for the company?

I decided to start Saidot as the knowledge gap between AI experts and regulatory bodies became strikingly obvious to me, having worked with analytics and AI for over 20 years. During the past few years, I became increasingly aware that the majority of organisations know that AI governance needs to be a priority but are unclear on where to begin or how to operationalise good governance in practice. There was a distinct lack of tools and guidance for these organisations, so Saidot was born to fill this important gap in the market. Our ultimate goal is to help AI teams do high-quality governance with efficiency.

How did you achieve awareness?

Awareness around Saidot has developed organically to date. To start with, a lot of awareness for the business came through networking events and meeting with other AI, and AI policy, experts. I am fortunate to have specialised in AI governance during a time when AI ethics was a very new specialty, and as a result I have been able to get to know the community better. So when I met people at events and conferences, there is good interest in hearing more about Saidot and the work we are doing.

We have also built some fantastic relationships with our clients, which has in turn improved awareness of our company. We pride ourselves on exceeding our clients’ expectations and this has helped our clients to become our biggest advocates, sharing news of Saidot through word of mouth.

More recently, since receiving investment in our latest seed funding round, we have been looking at marketing ourselves better and investing in our team internally, to ensure we can continue to grow through more targeted marketing efforts.

How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

Initially, Saidot received funding through angel investors. It was important to demonstrate to them that Saidot was building something important for the industry and it was great to have our angel investors support us during the initial stages of development.

For the seedround of funding, we had to convince potential investors about the strength of our team and ensure they understood the growing need for a solution like Saidot in the marketplace. We also had customers already paying for our platform, so we could show that Saidot would fit with customer needs. Fortunately, with AI regulation forming and the demand for risk management of generative AI becoming a more prominent issue, it was clear that there was a real need for Saidot and we were able to tick the right boxes to get investors on board.

What are the key successes?

There have been many successes for Saidot to date. We were pleased to close our latest round of seed funding in September 2023, which has enabled us to accelerate our growth in Europe and launch new features to help our customers evaluate and implement safety systems for their generative AI systems.

One important milestone was also the introduction of public AI registers with the City of Amsterdam and Helsinki, which quickly became the leading benchmark for public organisations on how to provide AI transparency to citizens and wider society. We are also pleased to have built some excellent relationships with our clients, including customers both in public administration as well as the private sector.

What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?

Currently, there is a significant knowledge gap between AI regulators and corporate stakeholders. Organisations are struggling to understand the overly convoluted legal terminology and language in regulatory documents, which causes many business leaders to feel lost when it comes to regulation and risk management. At Saidot, we are focused on guiding organisations with concrete steps and practical examples of what good governance looks like at every stage of the product lifecycle. Alongside our expert team of legal and AI experts, Saidot has been developing tools and resources to make regulation clear and accessible to non-expert stakeholders.

What are your plans now/for the future?

As the deadline for the finalised EU AI Act is fast approaching, we are focused on helping businesses getting AI ready by providing governance tools which help mitigate risks without stifling innovation. The launch of our new product Saidot Library will support organisations with their preparation for this important piece of legislation. Moreover, as generative AI continues to grow in prominence and popularity, the Saidot platform will help organisations to ensure better outcomes and succeed with their implementation of this technology.

The Saidot Library currently contains information on many different foundation models, more than one hundred risks and respective mitigations, and numerous AI policies globally, and we plan to continue building out this repository of information and knowledge over the coming months and years as regulations from around the world continue to shape the AI market.

We are also planning more educational content to help businesses understand the importance of AI governance and how they can achieve this within their own organisation. My colleagues at Saidot and I have been hosting a series of webinars to provide organisations with clarity on AI regulation, as well as share step-by-step advice on how to begin integrating AI safely into operations, with governance as the priority. We plan to continue these educational sessions so that we can support more businesses as they prepare for the EU AI Act and other developing AI regulations worldwide.

What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?

The biggest learning for me has been that in order to build a successful company, you don’t need to be the first in the market – actually, it’s often better and easier to find a growing market and do something much better than any competitor can do at the moment. Build on what you already know really well and make sure you have the team who can help to support you in areas that you’re lacking. Founding a startup is a marathon, so make sure you’re enjoying the ride and share it with the people you trust and love to work with.

Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?

The key to success is the team around you. At Saidot, we prioritise hiring the best talent and the right people for each role, regardless of their background. By promoting diversity across our organisation, we are able to all bring in people with different strengths and expertise to the company. Of course, diversity is also important for bringing more balance to the AI industry, which has been male-dominated to date. As a result, our team is focused on amplifying the voices of both our male and female experts to fill this diversity gap and mitigate the ethical issues that are inevitable when one group dominates the conversation.

Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?

  • My husband, for making it possible for me to live a life as an entrepreneur, mom of two teenage boys, and wife – all at the same time.
  • My dad, for having a life-long entrepreneurial career, while teaching me everything about good service and quality, and to respect anyone who can give a job, even to just one person.
  • Dr. Joanna Bryson, for her pioneering work in the field of responsible AI, her curiosity and intelligence, and the way she constantly selflessly brings up and empowers other women with less experience and access, to grow and flourish.
  • Dr. Joy Buolamwini, for being a powerful voice for equality in AI, and making AI’s bias problems seen and understandable by using creative means, such as poetry.
  • My Saidot partner Veera, who is the most courageous person and my daily source of inspiration and energy, as well as being an amazing roommate during our business trips!

What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?  

LinkedIn // Twitter // https://www.saidot.ai/about-us