Montreal-Based Startup Element AI Raises $135M
TORONTO — A Montreal startup said Thursday it is getting US$102 million from Microsoft, Intel and several other investors to fund the company's goal of becoming a leader in artificial intelligence, an industry seen as becoming an increasingly important part of the Canadian economy.
The financing, which comes eight months after Element AI launched, is expected to create 250 jobs in Toronto and Asia by January, CEO Jean-Francois Gagne said.
Gagne said Element AI's goal is to create a Canadian publicly listed company that brings AI capabilities to traditional industries, such as manufacturing and financial services.
As an example, Gagne said AI can use vast amounts of data from sophisticated cameras and sensors to make robotic manufacturing more aware of its surroundings and easier to adapt to changes.
"Which means that you can then personalize and adapt products faster and cheaper. We're pretty excited about what's going to happen there," Gagne said.
"As they depend and run their business more and more on artificial intelligence, that advantage will become a key critical factor of their success in the market in the very near future."
The financing, led by the Data Collective venture capital fund, also comes from National Bank, Business Development Bank of Canada and Fidelity Investments Canada.
Gagne credits California-based Data Collective with helping Element AI line up tech-savvy investors such as South Korean conglomerate Hanwha Investment and Nvidia, a major U.S.-based supplier of computer visual processor chips.
"These guys are unlocking for us a global market and are going to enable us to be taken seriously in all these other areas."
Confidentiality agreements prevent Element AI from saying how much it received from each investor or how much of the total equity was purchased by the new investors.
Gagne co-founded Element AI in October with fellow entrepreneur Nicolas Chapados, the Real Ventures fund and Yoshua Bengio, an AI pioneer and professor at the Universite de Montreal. Bengio is part of a team of more than 20 professors at all of Canada's major artificial intelligence labs that are collaborating with Element AI.
The company employs more than 100 workers, Gagne said.