Two Ottawa artificial intelligence firms announced separate funding rounds this week, raising a combined $14.5 million and elevating the capital’s AI profile.
Raven Telemetry, an AI firm that mines manufacturers’ data to make their operations more efficient, announced Tuesday that it had raised $6.1 million from angel investors. The initial investment was drawn from members of the local group Fresh Founders, including Shopify’s Tobi Lütke and Harley Finkelstein, as well as former Cognos CEO Rob Ashe. Jacket River Capital and HBS Angel Investors of New York were also involved in the round.
Meanwhile, it was the second time to the well for MindBridge AI. The developer of AI auditing tools raised a series-A round of $8.4 million, following a $4.3-million seed round last June. The latest round includes existing investors such as Montreal-based Real Ventures and San Francisco’s 8VC, as well as National Bank of Canada, Toronto-based The Group Investment and New York’s Reciprocal Ventures.
‘First-hand pain’ and gain
Though Raven Telemetry launched in 2013, CEO and co-founder Martin Cloake says the firm has its roots in the early 2000s.
Though he cut his high-tech teeth in Ottawa’s telecom scene, the industry’s downturn led Cloake to take a job elsewhere in manufacturing. There, he says, he “experienced the pain first-hand” that would lead him to start Raven a decade later.
Manufacturing, by its nature, is heavily measured and focused on efficiency. Cloake was seeing a deep trove of data on the firm’s inefficiencies, but it was too dense to make informed decisions about where to better allocate resources.
“The challenge is not to get data, it’s to do something with it,” he says.
He recalls plopping data into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that was so big it took minutes to load. By the time he’d found anything useful in the data, three weeks had gone by and the production line was facing new issues.
In other words, there was too much data to sort through to be of any use. But that was then, and AI is now.
“Technology has gotten to the point where it’s cheap to collect the data – there’s the capacity to interpret it and there’s a massive appetite to interpret it that wasn’t there 15 years ago,” he says.
Raven’s technology filters through machine and operator data to point managers in the right direction to maximize their usefulness.
For those worried about AI taking jobs on the plant floor, Cloake compares the “augmented management” model to a GPS: It’s not making the decisions; it’s showing you the fastest and most efficient point to your destination. It’s a way for leaders to make data-informed decisions about resources, human or otherwise.
Cloake says Raven plans to use the funding round to “double down” on the firm’s technology as well as to expand its reach. The firm already counts large firms such as Montreal-based DavidsTea as customers, but its CEO says manufacturing has always been a global game and is eager to bring the solution to more firms.
MindBridge sets sights on scale
MindBridge is already finding plenty of global success, signing more than 125 customers in six countries over the past 14 months, according to a release. Chief executive Eli Fathi said in a statement that the firm is seeing a great deal of interest in its product, and the latest funding will help it meet that demand.
“Through discussions with customers, regulatory bodies and the investment community, it is evident that MindBridge’s AI platform is solving real problems across multiple sectors,” he said.
“This new round of financing will be deployed to accelerate the scale-up of MindBridge’s operations, further increasing its market leadership position.”
MindBridge is also hoping to become a leader back home, as the firm will host its inaugural Impact AI conference later this month. In a recent interview, Fathi told OBJ that MindBridge wants to “put Ottawa on the map” in the AI space.
MindBridge shares a connection with Raven Telemetry beyond their sector. Both firms have solicited support from Fresh Founders for initial investments. The same goes for CanvasPop, which raised $3.3 million in seed funding earlier this year and shares building space with Raven on Hamilton Avenue.
Cloake says the firm is happy to have the support of the Fresh Founders group, and its angel investors deserve credit for their support of Ottawa startups.
“It’s great to have that calibre of entrepreneur in Ottawa and it’s neat to get support from that group,” he says.