Granola debuts an AI notepad for meetings

Taking meeting notes is a chore, so why not leave that task to AI? That's the premise behind a new startup, Granola, whose AI-powered notepad app lets you combine your own notes with those created by AI based on a transcript of your meeting. Unlike some other AI transcription apps that try to summarize the key points of a meeting on their own, Granola takes a more collaborative approach to working with AI. You can opt to guide the AI by writing down what you think the most important takeaways were from the meeting and allow the AI to fill in the details.

Co-founder Chris Pedregal says he was inspired to build Granola after working with GPT-3 when it was new. He experimented with different prototypes to figure out how AI could be useful in his everyday life. AI's utility was something that drove him to create his prior company, Socratic, an AI tutoring app that allowed people to take a photo of a homework problem and have it teach the user how to solve it. The company sold to Google, and Pedregal stayed at the tech giant for a couple of years before getting the itch to build again.

Building different tools, including an AI journaling app at one point, led to a realization.

"Through that process, I just became convinced that LLMs [large language models] were going to change the tools we use for work. It's especially powerful when it comes to spoken language and making that useful," Pedregal said.

He later teamed up with co-founder Sam Stephenson, who previously worked at the note-taking app Ideaflow. The two initially met through a meetup group focused on tools for meeting. Like Pedregal, Stephenson was also based in London, so the two ended up meeting in real life and found they got along. "Now we're basically married," Stephenson joked.

The two founded Granola in March 2023 with the goal of making it easier to manage meeting notes.

"People spend a crazy amount of time in meetings, especially since the pandemic — like Zoom meetings in particular," Pedregal said. Many are in back-to-back meetings all day without time to review, write or clean up their prior notes. In addition, for most people, meetings are the only time they take notes; they don't often take notes in other parts of their lives."

Granola works to solve the note-taking problem with an app that's essentially an AI-powered evolution of something like Apple Notes. You engage with Granola on your computer, and you can choose to write your own notes or bullet points, or leave it all up to the AI. The app works by connecting to your calendar, then transcribing the Mac's audio directly. That means no meeting bots are joining your online meetings, as with other solutions. Currently, Granola works with Zoom, Google Meet, Teams, Slack and WebEx.

The app essentially works like a regular notepad, meaning you can type your own notes during the meeting. Granola, however, analyzes who's in the meeting, their roles and what the meeting is about — like a sales call, job interview or investor pitch, for example. When the meeting wraps, Granola augments your notes with more information, referencing the transcript as it fleshes them out. If you make typos or forget to capitalize things, Granola will handle that during the cleanup, too.

For example, if someone says during the meeting that a project's budget is $10K, you might just write "10K" in your notes. When Granola comes back in, it will expand that to include more information, like "Photography budget can go up to 10K."

Granola's notes are hyperlinked to the transcript summary so you can fact-check them for accuracy or just reference what was said in full. The AI notes are also written in gray to differentiate them from your own notes, in black.

The app uses OpenAI's GPT-4o, which means you can also engage with it as you would ChatGPT.

Pedregal thinks Granola is an improvement over other meeting transcription tools, because it doesn't just summarize the meeting via AI: It allows you to write your own notes and even collaborate with the AI. You can use Markdown formatting to guide the AI by typing out headings preceded by a pound sign, for example, and it will know to add bullet points referencing that topic underneath.

"Right now we're outsourcing a lot of our thinking to LLMs, like ChatGPt. And we have very little control over it," Pedregal said. "You ask ChatGPT to write an email for you and it'll write it and it's magical. But then if you get it to write an email that you would actually send … it's super hard. It's almost more trouble than it's worth. I think that's the big question right now: How do you design AI so that you're still in control? You're still using your judgment, but it's helping you do your best work?"

Fueling Granola's launch is a $4.25 million round of funding, closed last year and led by Lightspeed. Other investors include Betaworks, Firstminute Capital, Otherwise, Uncommon and angels like Mike Krieger, Soleio, Hunter Walk, David Lieb, Mike Hudack, Gabor Cselle and Andrew Parker.

Longer-term, Pedregal says the team would like to expand beyond meetings to whatever the next steps may involve, like writing a memo, filing a bug report, scheduling a follow-up and more.

Granola is free to use for the first 25 meetings, then is a reasonable $10 per month. Over time, the startup aims to generate additional revenue with the launches of a team or company plan where pricing may be adjusted. The app is free to download on macOS.

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