Why are Canadian AI start-ups selling to foreign firms?
Toronto-based Outside Intelligence Inc. has been acquired by New York-based Exiger LLC, the Canadian firm’s largest outside investor. A source familiar with the deal said it valued Outside Intelligence Inc., an Artificial Intelligence (AI) start-up, at $30 million.
This acquisition follows an interesting trend. Domestic Canadian start-ups seem to be selling to foreign buyers in their numbers. Canada has a fertile AI ecosystem. For example, it’s home to some of the world’s leading AI experts, namely the University of Toronto’s Geoff Hinton, Yoshua Bengio at University of Montreal and Rich Sutton at University of Alberta. Furthermore, researchers from University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia now hold senior AI positions with Apple, Uber, Microsoft and Elon Musk’s OpenAI.
Some are worried that foreign buyers will extract domestic AI start-up firms before they can grow into domestic giants. In the last few months, AI firms Meta Inc. of Toronto and Montreal-based Maluuba have been purchased by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and Microsoft, respectively. Also, Microsoft and Google have actively funded Canadian AI initiatives including Toronto’s Vector Institute.
“We’re seeing a lot of early-stage AI companies selling because there are a lot of buyers offering premiums,” said Steve Irvine, an ex-Facebook executive who moved back to Toronto to start the AI firm Integrate.ai.
Intelliwave SiteSense boosts APTIM material tracking
“We’ve been engaged with the APTIM team since early 2019 providing SiteSense, our mobile construction SaaS solution, for their maintenance and construction projects, allowing them to track materials and equipment, and manage inventory.
We have been working with the APTIM team to standardize material tracking processes and procedures, ultimately with the goal of reducing the amount of time spent looking for materials. Industry studies show that better management of materials can lead to a 16% increase in craft labour productivity.
Everyone knows construction is one of the oldest industries but it’s one of the least tech driven comparatively. About 95% of Engineering and Construction data captured goes unused, 13% of working hours are spent looking for data and around 30% of companies have applications that don’t integrate.
With APTIM, we’re looking at early risk detection, through predictive analysis and forecasting of material constraints, integrating with the ecosystem of software platforms and reporting on real-time data with a ‘field-first’ focus – through initiatives like the Digital Foreman. The APTIM team has seen great wins in the field, utilising bar-code technology, to check in thousands of material items quickly compared to manual methods.
There are three key areas when it comes to successful Materials Management in the software sector – culture, technology, and vendor engagement.
Given the state of world affairs, access to data needs to be off site via the cloud to support remote working conditions, providing a ‘single source of truth’ accessed by many parties; the tech sector is always growing, so companies need faster and more reliable access to this cloud data; digital supply chain initiatives engage vendors a lot earlier in the process to drive collaboration and to engage with their clients, which gives more assurance as there is more emphasis on automating data capture.
It’s been a challenging period with the pandemic, particularly for the supply chain. Look what happened in the Suez Canal – things can suddenly impact material costs and availability, and you really have to be more efficient to survive and succeed. Virtual system access can solve some issues and you need to look at data access in a wider net.
Solving problems comes down to better visibility, and proactively solving issues with vendors and enabling construction teams to execute their work. The biggest cause of delays is not being able to provide teams with what they need.
On average 2% of materials are lost or re-ordered, which only factors in the material cost, what is not captured is the duplicated effort of procurement, vendor and shipping costs, all of which have an environmental impact.
As things start to stabilise, APTIM continues to utilize SiteSense to boost efficiencies and solve productivity issues proactively. Integrating with 3D/4D modelling is just the precipice of what we can do. Access to data can help you firm up bids to win work, to make better cost estimates, and AI and ML are the next phase, providing an eco-system of tools.
A key focus for Intelliwave and APTIM is to increase the availability of data, whether it’s creating a data warehouse for visualisations or increasing integrations to provide additional value. We want to move to a more of an enterprise usage phase – up to now it’s been project based – so more people can access data in real time.