Jeff Kofman had travelled the globe as a broadcast reporter for 30 years, interviewed presidents, covered coups and been embedded with United States troops in Iraq in 2003, with bombs and bullets flying, and peril near at hand.
But none of that had prepared him for the series of hashtags that appeared on his computer screen in the spring of 2015. The hashtags — errors in Excel speak — taunted him and filled him with dread as he contemplated his next move at the kitchen table of the house in north London that he shares with his husband and fellow Canadian, Michael Levine, a world-renowned set and costume designer.
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Kofman knew how to handle tough assignments. After all, he had won an Emmy in 2011 for his reports on the Libyan Revolution for ABC. What he didn’t know was how to navigate a spreadsheet, a blind spot that led to the hashtags and, alas, a moment of despair for a veteran reporter, who had this great idea to start a technology company that would harness the power of artificial intelligence to automatically transcribe speech to text, but no idea how to actually write a business plan.