By 2005, Jeff Lawrence made an exit out of Precision Targeting, an advertising company he founded in 2002.
At the time, the entrepreneur was fascinated by an emerging ability to use massive amounts of data to predict, and then change, the future.
However, he felt that technology wasn’t yet at a point to support the vision for his next venture.
A few years later, the tech appeared ready, and Lawrence was compelled to launch another company: Granify, an e-commerce conversion and revenue optimization technology platform powered by machine learning that promises merchants up to 5% revenue lift.
The Canadian company was founded in Edmonton in 2011. By 2013, the startup had paying customers and a 4,000-square-foot office downtown.
Over the next couple of years, Granify raised multiple rounds of capital, including $9 million in Series B funding in 2015 from Valar Ventures and others. In 2016, the company expanded to the US with an office in Texas.
This year, the company announced the release of Granify Rapid Personalization, the latest tool from the platform. GRP allows retailers to curate personalized shopping experiences that can be created and modified without requiring technical resources.
GRP integrates with other products from Granify, including Enhanced Shopper Profile and Granify Brain, an AI-powered commerce optimizer that utilizes behavioural data from current and past shopping sessions without the use of third-party cookies.
Lawrence waited for AI, and now it is the lifeblood of his company. There are many such cases.
AI in Alberta
Alberta boasts one of Canada’s largest hubs of innovation in Artificial Intelligence, a technology that has been around for decades but with recent advancements has become the talk of the tech world in 2023.
Many of the region’s growing startups leverage AI in one way or another—these days it’s a competitive disadvantage to ignore the tech.
For example there is Max Labs, which built a camera module boosted by artificial intelligence and open-source technology to enable features such as people counting, gesture detection, and smart condition monitoring.
Calgary’s Alethea Medical uses artificial intelligence in the medical diagnostics field, where its e-consult platform provides doctors with predictive support and expedited specialist communication.
Edmonton’s Nanoprecise Sci Corp raised USD$10 million this year for its automated AI-based predictive maintenance solution, which utilizes low-power wireless sensors and cloud-based AI-powered software to detect small changes in machine performance and predict the remaining useful life of an industrial asset.
The inaugural Vector AI20 for 2023 recognized Edmonton’s AltaML, which uses data to build AI tools that optimize performance, mitigate risks, and create new opportunities.
Artificial intelligence is also a major theme at most tech events in Alberta these days, including INVENTURE$ 2023, which is set to take over Calgary this May and June across three days of learning, inspiration, and creative collisions.
With a theme of “Innovation Overdrive,” this year’s tracks include AI-infused topics such as the Metaverse, the Future of Work, Computing Infinity, Health Innovation, and Ag-Tech.
There is also ample capital flowing through AI in Alberta.
In January, the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute made a significant investment in AI. The institute unveiled $30 million in funding to expand their research program, including the recruitment of 20 new chairs in AI at the University of Alberta.
These new positions focus on interdisciplinary research, exploring how artificial intelligence can push the boundaries of research into fields including health, energy, and physics.
And a couple of months later, the Government of Alberta, through Alberta Innovates, invested $30 million in AMII to build Alberta’s AI talent pipeline, accelerate research, and commercialize the AI ecosystem.
“Through this funding, Amii will continue to increase the depth of Alberta’s innovation and technology talent pool, accelerate the commercialization of Alberta research and innovation, and build upon Alberta’s position as a global leader in AI innovation and industry deployment,” stated Cam Linke, chief executive of AMII, in March.
Alberta has invested in artificial intelligence capacity through AMII and the University of Alberta for more than 20 years.
Even more recently, AWS hosted a wild and woolly race in the heart of Calgary.
On April 28, techies revved their engines at the AWS DeepRacer Battle of Alberta held at Computer Modelling Group headquarters. This fun-filled event celebrated the upcoming launch of AWS Canada West (Calgary) Region in late 2023.
The participants at the Battle of Alberta came from a dozen-plus Calgary tech companies, including Computer Modelling Group, Blackline Safety, Curve Dental, and Smart Technologies.
When Canadian fintech Shopify recently axed nearly 2,000 employees, chief executive Tobi Lutke stated “We are at the dawn of the AI era and the new capabilities that are unlocked by that are unprecedented.”
Alberta appears well aware of this fact.
As with Granify, artificial intelligence and machine learning technology has become the lifeblood of many Alberta startups today. And current trends, though not always to be trusted, indicate increasing permeation of AI across sectors and geographies.
The region’s ecosystem is doing what it can to ensure the pipeline is prepared.