🎙️ e-Estonia podcast: Fyma’s Co-Founder Karen K. Burns: How to run your AI startup ethically

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In our second podcast episode, our Digital Transformation Adviser Florian Marcus talks to computer-vision AI company Fyma´s co-founder and CEO Karen K. Burns. Karen dreamt of becoming a Hollywood producer and moved to the UK at 18 and put herself through film school while working for several IT companies.

There did come a brief stint in the movie industry when she was living in Dubai and started pitching the Abu Dhabi desert to Hollywood and Bollywood studios. She also worked on the production of “Star Wars” and “The Fast and the Furious”. “I absolutely hated it and took a year of sabbatical after that,” she says.

Fast-forward to 2021 and to Estonia, where Karen leads an AI company called Fyma where ethics is one of the central values when choosing investors and clients.

Most of the world is covered with cameras

Fyma is a computer vision AI-powered platform that understands what is happening in your indoor-outdoor spaces. IoT sensors are currently used to count footfall and understand dwell time, yet they only give out basic metrics: count, inaccurate dwell time and it is impossible to work with datasets that come out of them. 3D cameras, AI cameras, and other devices are expensive to purchase and maintain.

Most retail centres, business parks, etc. already have the necessary infrastructure – security cameras. All they need is Fyma to turn them into data-gathering sensors and start producing actionable insights.

Karen K. Burns says what she is the proudest of is that their algorithms have been trained not to see any biometrical data and their service is not infringing anyone´s privacy and security.

“Fyma doesn´t store any data. Everything is anonymized and we have had lawyers with us since august 2020 analysing our compliance with the GDPR and privacy laws,” Karen stresses.

She also says Fyma doesn´t work with sanctioned countries and when fundraising also doesn´t accept investor money from these countries.

Pandemic pushed away from B2G

Karen says that their company hasn´t stayed untouched by the pandemic. While it didn´t make them change the business model, it did change the clients Fyma was going after.

“We started with the tech at Fyma and only then looking for the best use-case for this tech. In 2020 we tested car parks, retail centers, business parks and tried to iterate around them. We were taking part in an acceleration program in Dubai, working with the local Road and Transport Authority. We were thinking monitoring and analysing traffic is our path. Then COVID happened and every public sector institution started thinking about how to start working from home – what traffic? So this made us push away from B2G. And we reprofiled ourselves towards retail and shopping centres and business parks.”

If you want to hear more of the Fyma story, what is Karen´s favourite digital service in Estonia that the rest of the world would benefit from, too and what we should be focusing more on when developing e-services, what she did in South Africa, why all AI companies are not equal, and much more – tune in to

🎧Listen on Apple Podcast and Spotify:

🎧And listen on Soundcloud

Written by
Dea Paraskevopoulos

communications manager at the e-estonia briefing centre


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