‘Warning Letter Wednesday’ author Asa Waldstein has just debuted Apex Compliance, a software that identifies risky terms and phrases and suggests lower-risk alternatives on websites, YouTube videos, and any uploaded content.
Waldstein explained that Apex Compliance focuses on three areas of regulatory risk: websites, YouTube videos, as well as content review before publishing. It instantly scans sites and provides a detailed report showing the exact URL location of each keyword, the paragraph it is used in, the risk rating, lower-risk alternatives, and notes. This provides a playbook in real-time on how to reduce website and YouTube regulatory risk. Apex Compliance also reviews uploaded blogs and social content before posting, and streamlines the process by flagging keywords and simplifies swapping high-risk phrases for lower-risk alternatives.
Waldstein told NutraIngredients-USA that he started working on the idea about three years ago after clients started asking him to conduct online compliance reviews. He began with a search for software that would help find keywords on websites.
Crtl+F is so last year
“Since most enforcement is related to compliance buzzwords like ‘anxiety,’ I looked for software that would help find keywords on websites, and to my surprise, there were none. At that time, conducting website reviews would require using the shortcut Ctrl-F to find different keywords on each page of the websites. This was time consuming and provided an incomplete picture of online risk, as it was nearly impossible to review every page of a website,” explained Waldstein.
From there, he hired a small group of programmers to build a product that would streamline the process of adding different keywords, attributing a risk rating to each keyword and then suggesting lower-risk alternatives and resources. The program was a hit, because once word got out, colleagues were asking to license the program. Waldstein enlisted the expert attorneys at Amin Talati Wasserman to submit the technology for a patent, and he rebuilt the product with a large software and design company. He also added additional capabilities such as reviewing content before publishing and scanning YouTube videos for compliance concerns.
According to Waldstein, Apex Compliance uses a proprietary advanced scanning algorithm that features intuitive navigation and understandable analytics reports, making it accessible for users at all levels of technical proficiency. Through iterative development, Apex Compliance has been refined with real-world user feedback informing each new version.
“As we look toward the future program, iterations of smart AI that help the user experience will be added,” he noted.
Apex Compliance was designed with an advanced scanning algorithm, which is why it can accomplish tasks in minutes that used to take weeks when done manually, Waldstein explained.
“This quick, automated scanning not only speeds up reviews but also significantly reduces the chances of overlooking potential compliance issues, a risk often associated with traditional manual reviews. The software's thoroughness ensures that regulatory issues–some of which may have been missed in the past–are now identified and addressed,” said Waldstein.
Developing the risk rating
Over the past 20 years, Waldstein, a certified clinical herbalist, developed a list of top trigger words common in warning letters and lawsuits with potential lower-risk alternatives. His “Asa Risk Rating" takes into account enforcement trends such as the word "hangover," which just a few years ago was a lower risk but now carries a medium risk level, Waldstein noted. Apex Compliance comes preloaded with a list of 50 common trigger words, but it is customizable, meaning a user can add any phrase important to their business, such as "All Natural" or "No Artificial Flavors," and then attribute their own risk rating, suggested alternatives, and notes.
Waldstein acknowledged he was naïve about the complexities and challenges of building a scalable software as a service program.
“For example, the program must work optimally whether it has 50 or 5000 users, and I learned about numerous use cases that I hadn't thought about. By working with an expert company to solve the tech, design, and customer experience, I was able to focus on how to best make technology that can solve problems not just for me as a consultant, but for all of Apex's customers which includes law firms, brands, investors, and marketing agencies.”
The patent-pending software application is offered as a monthly subscription service with discounts for those who sign on with one-year commitments.