After many years in the security industry, Neal Alexander was looking for his next venture.
“As a former coach, I knew I wanted to do something that helps kids, as well as work with friends and family,” he said.
Alexander thought about motivational speaking or putting together football camps, but his son, Nick, the head football coach at Walsh Jesuit High School, gave him a better idea.
“My son spends a couple hours a night monitoring his players’ social media for inappropriate content that can have lasting repercussions,” he said. “Kids could risk losing scholarships or their eligibility to play, but the most devastating consequence is the risk of suicide for those who are bullied online or victims of sextortion.”
This led Alexander to found CyberSafely.ai, a Bounce Innovation Hub Software Accelerator client.
“I started talking to my contacts about what could be done, including my neighbors Annette and Tony Fatica who owned a marketing company. They dove right in,” he said.
Although Alexander has entrepreneurial experience, he was new to the tech space. Through James Hilton, senior director of entrepreneurial services and Bounce’s Software Accelerator, he was connected to Wonderkiln, a software developer that has brought his vision to life.
CyberSafely.ai is a web-based system that uses AI models to scan social media accounts for dangerous or harmful activity, simulating human intelligence to search and detect threats based on keywords. Once detected, schools and parents are alerted regarding a concerning post, so they can determine if any action is needed.
“Because AI is self-learning, it becomes better at identifying harmful content out of context, not relying only on keywords,” said Annette Fatica, Director of Operations. “Student privacy is a high priority, so the AI identifies and alerts users to threats and dangerous activity only. It is not installed on any devices nor does it monitor devices.”
The Faticas and Alexander are part of the core team that has been working together over the past year to get CyberSafely.ai where it is today. The team also includes:
- Frank Nisenboum, Director of Sales, and a longtime friend of Alexander’s who was instrumental in helping him develop the idea
- Joe Chubb, Director of IT, who works closely with the software developer and is building internal processes and plans for the company’s growing IT department.
- Melissa Nagy, a designer who creates all the marketing materials for CyberSafely.ai.
- Blazine Monaco, who serves as the funding consultant for schools, helping them apply for grants and funding sources to put toward the cost of CyberSafely.ai.
- Tina Burdecki, customer service representative, who is the liaison to the schools and assists with onboarding and ongoing support.
“Bounce has helped us fill gaps in our core team’s expertise,” said Alexander.
In addition to software development, Bounce has helped the CyberSafely.ai team access HR, accounting and legal resources, including legal services to help establish the app’s terms and conditions.
With Hilton as their main contact, the team meets weekly with him to ensure they are staying on track. Annette also keeps everyone organized, looking ahead to anticipate next steps. They are currently piloting the app with Walsh Jesuit High School, with other schools and churches getting on board soon, as they look toward a fourth quarter launch.
“We are actively talking to schools and sports teams in Ohio, Florida and Texas,” said Alexander. “By securing school funding, we can provide the service free to parents.”
The Fatica’s marketing expertise has been instrumental in launching this product to schools.
“By selling through coaches and schools, we will get to parents to create a village of coaches, school administrators and parents working together to keep kids safe online. This is truly needed and we are getting good feedback,” said Alexander.
For aspiring tech entrepreneurs, Alexander advises them to be patient and explore if there is a market for their idea.
“It’s also important to choose the right software company and find someone who really understands your goals,” he said.
However, it’s the relationships with the entire team that Alexander has found most rewarding.
“It’s been fun to bring this team of friends and family together to develop this concept, but the end-game of helping kids is also rewarding. Everyone is super-excited and this has been resonating with a lot of people.”
To learn more about Cyber Safely.AI, please visit https://cybersafely.ai/.
To learn more about our Software Accelerator, please https://bouncehub.org/accelerator/.
About the author:
Jill Wodtley, APR, is a freelance writer and owner of Fine Point Public Relations and Advertising. An accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America, she develops and implements marketing communications, public relations and advertising initiatives for a variety of clients, ranging from health care and social service agencies to industrial/manufacturing firms.