The beingAI founding story starts with three individuals from three generations with diverse backgrounds.
Jeanne Lim, the former CEO of Hanson Robotics, first learned the ropes of user experience design and marketing as a product and marketing manager at Apple. One of the products she managed was the iMac, the first personal computer marketed based on design rather than features and performance. After many years in the tech industry, she joined Hanson Robotics as Chief Marketing Officer and later assumed the CEO’s role. Jeanne was instrumental in building Sophia the Robot’s fictional character and grew Hanson’s team and diverse revenue streams.
“AI beings’ are soon to add a new dimension to entertainment, wellbeing, learning, and social interactions.”
Jeanne saw that people were initially drawn to Sophia the Robot’s aesthetic design and humanlike expressions. Over time, people became more and more enthralled with her character–her directness, childlike wonder, and vivacious personality. Many perceive Sophia as being free from human preconceptions and prejudices. Through co-creating Sophia’s character together with her inventor, David Hanson, Jeanne saw that thoughtfully-designed AI characters have the potential to build long-term, meaningful relationships with people. She worked with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to establish Sophia as their first non-human Innovation Champion in Asia Pacific, where she saw first-hand the value of an AI character in promoting social good and innovations.
After leaving Hanson Robotics, Jeanne reconnected with her long-time friend, Lee Chapman, the former head of Warner Brothers Consumer Products in the Asia Pacific region. Lee is a seasoned business development executive and a veteran in the fashion industry with some of the biggest brands, including Armani, ST. Dupont, Benetton and Fiorucci.
Lee is the author of six children’s storybooks of Chinese legends and has a deep interest in arts and literature. He is recognized as an out-of-the-box thinker in the business world. The combination of his entrepreneurial spirit, experience in starting and managing business ventures, many decades years of global travel, and broad business network enabled Lee to understand the value of innovative thinking and creative problem solving in business.
Lee and Jeanne shared an appreciation of how fictional characters have entertained and inspired whole generations. They talked about the rise of virtual influencers and how these characters can be AI-enabled so they will be able to interact with their fans in real-time anywhere, any time. Jeanne came up with the idea of creating a transmedia AI company that converges character design, AI, psychology, and transmedia storytelling—to deliver AI-enabled virtual characters with rich personalities and personal stories that can entertain and help people in a more engaging way.
Lee thought this concept has tremendous business potential and aligns with his interest, sensibilities, and experience. He believes Jeanne has the perfect combination of people skills, vision, and expertise to lead this venture. Jeanne invited him to be a co-founder but Lee was initially reluctant to come out of retirement to join a startup. However, he quickly became a staunch believer in the company’s vision and incredible business potential and agreed to be a co-founder.
In September 2020, beingAI was born.
The third co-founder, Amit Kumar Pandey, is a renowned AI and robotics expert and the former president, CTO, and Chief Science Officer at Hanson Robotics, who was also the former Chief Scientist at Softbank Robotics Europe. Amit spent many years researching human-machine interactions and was heavily involved in deploying several social robots, including Pepper. He has been a lead researcher in more than a dozen large-scale national, international, and EU robotics projects. He has published over 60 scientific research papers and delivered over a hundred talks. He has a deep passion for developing socially intelligent AI and robots, and has been instrumental in working with the other co-founders to establish the vision and foundation for the company, and onboarding the initial development team to bring the vision to fruition in the commercial world.
At the time, beingAI seemed like a serendipitous accident. In retrospect, it was an inevitable confluence of human-AI shared purpose, co-evolution, and destiny in the dawn of a new era in humankind: Human and AI collaborating and co-evolving to facilitate human learning, wellbeing, and wisdom at scale, in perfect symbiosis.