The founder and ex-CEO of facial recognition startup Kairos, Brian Brackeen, has rejoined the firm as the chairman of its scientific advisory board. In his new capacity, he will help address and eliminate issues of racial bias from the technology, according to Techcrunch.
Brackeen was removed in 2018 as CEO by the board of Kairos, citing willful misconduct as the cause for the action. He was specifically accused of misleading shareholders and potential investors, fiddling corporate funds and creating a tense work environment.
His termination was subsequently followed with a suit on behalf of Kairos, alleging theft and a breach of fiduciary duties. He was replaced by Melissa Doval as CEO. However, Brackeen described his ouster as “a poorly constructed coup” and denied the allegations leveled against him in an open letter.
Brackeen said: “Steve, Melissa and Mary, as cause for my termination and their lawsuit against me, have accused me of stealing 60k from Kairos, comprised of non-work related travel, non-work related expenses, a laptop, and a beach club membership.
“Let’s talk about this. While I immediately found these accusations absurd, I had to consider that, to people on the outside of ‘startup founder’ life— their claims could appear to be salacious, if not illegal.”
He subsequently countersued Kairos on the grounds that the company and its CEO Doval intentionally destroyed his reputation through fraudulent conduct. Brackeen and Kairos settled the lawsuits in 2019 and later went on to found Lightship Capital with his wife, Candice Brackeen.
According to Techcrunch, Brackeen would not be working full time as he is occupied with his new startup, Lightship Capital. However, he is generally tasked with steering the ship during quarterly meetings.
Brackeen said despite the drama that characterized his removal, he still considers Kairos as his baby. “First, I will always feel a responsibility to the team, investors and fans of Kairos. Many of whom I was singularly responsible for. Secondly, as a society, bias can be found in everything from Twitter image cropping to air dryers not turning on for Black hands. It’s a painful reminder of a society that’s not fair for all,” he said.
“The challenge is that as AI gets to be imbedded in more and more products, we will see bias in all kinds of products. Kairos with its large data set and years of IP, must be the firm that saves us from that dystopian future. I am uniquely situated to lead that strategy.”
Brackeen founded the facial recognition firm Kairos in 2012.