#InnovationAroundtheWorld: How Canada Became an AI Hub

Oh, Canada

For a country whose chief exports are often thought to be politeness, hockey, and putting gravy on French fries, Canada is quickly becoming a hot destination for innovative tech startups.

As a result, several tech giants have begun to put down roots in the Great White North.

Amazon, for example, expanded its Vancouver base of operations with 3,000 new jobs in 2018, and includes Toronto on its shortlist of 20 cities that could house its second North American headquarters.

In January 2018, Apple purchased app-development startup Buddybuild with an eye on making their facility Apple’s development home up north.

The easy-going attitude that Canadians are known for has translated into a startup ecosystem buzzing with artificial intelligence solutions that allow enterprises to provide customer-centric experiences.

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Montreal’s AI Revolution

The tech scene in Montreal has become internationally known as a hub for AI.

Leaders in the field have been attracted to the area’s deep pool of research talent for years. Google established the Google Brain Team in 2016, headed by local deep learning wunderkind Hugo Larochelle.

Other big names in AI like Microsoft, DeepMind and more have also created labs in the city to further their research.

Canada's startup ecosystem is buzzing with artificial intelligence solutions that allow enterprises to provide customer-centric experiences. Click To Tweet

Amongst those established companies, though, sits a diverse cluster of innovative startups with Element AI’s cofounders, Jean-François Gagné and Yoshua Bengio at the head of the pack.

In 2017, the AI research and development center raised a record-breaking $102 million to continue pursuing its stated mission to democratize artificial intelligence by building AI-first solutions.

This means that instead of approaching existing processes and services with AI, Element AI builds solutions from the ground up with AI in mind.

This approach favors revolution over stagnation, and results in accessible and intuitive AI solutions.

Banking on Customer Service AI

Montreal isn’t the only AI hot spot in Canada.

Vancouver-based chatbot startup Finn.ai is making waves in the FinTech community with their self-proclaimed “natural speaking” chatbot. They were named Best of Show at the fall 2017 Finovate conference in New York.

Finn.ai’s goal is to change the way people interact with their financial institutions by reimagining customer service through a responsive AI-driven chat system.

Compatible with several platforms, including iOS, Android, Facebook Messenger and Amazon Alexa, Finn.ai’s customer service bot uses deep learning and complex language processing to engage users and parse out their financial inquiries from everyday colloquial language.

Ultimately, Finn.ai’s service is meant to solve customer’s issues faster and and more efficiently than human intervention, all while delivering a seamless and enjoyable customer experience.

Making Benefits Work for Companies and Employees

Many companies use benefits as a way to retain in-demand talent. For some, this means offering a game room or a foosball table, and for others it’s the ability to take one day a week to work on personal projects on the company’s dime.

However, rising healthcare costs have made quality healthcare benefits more and more valuable for companies hoping to demonstrate that they value their workforce.

Luckily for Toronto-based startup League Inc., this means that the health benefits system is ripe for disruption.

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League Inc.’s approach is to offer a simplified and self-contained employee health benefit selection process that acts as a simplified one-stop-shop for employee health benefits.

Its customer-centric approach seems to be working. In Q1 of 2018, League Inc. signed 10 times more clients than in Q1 2017, and they continue to grow at a rapid rate.

Where Will Canadian Innovation Go From Here?

These innovative companies illustrate how Canada’s entrepreneurial minds have focused their attention on improving user experiences and more generally simplifying people’s lives.

This flourishing ecosystem will likely lead to even more innovative minds and disruptive startups taking their business to Canada. This growth will only bolster the region’s innovative spirit and promote new groundbreaking tech advances for years to come.

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