A|I: The AI Times – AI is expensive. Cue the M&A.

Plus: Canada and UK sign memo on AI compute power.

The AI Times is a weekly newsletter covering the biggest AI, machine learning, big data, and automation news from around the globe.

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As AI Costs Soar, Some Startups Consider Selling

The founders of artificial intelligence startups spent much of the past year seeking capital to fund the high cost of developing their software. Now those costs have pushed some to consider another alternative—merging with a larger company.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has said his company’s most advanced model cost more than $100 million to develop. Anthropic, a rival to OpenAI, spent more than half of the revenue it generated last month paying cloud providers such as Amazon and Google to run its large language models, The Information reported. These costs will likely rise as LLM developers shell out millions in licensing fees to publishers to use their content for training AI models. 

Now some smaller startups are trying to find homes in larger AI companies. 

(The Information)

Eight Canadian foodtech projects receive $1.9 million in pilot funding from CFIN

Eight Canadian foodtech startups have received a collective $1.9 million in project funding from The Canadian Food Innovation Network’s (CFIN) FoodTech Next program.

One project comes out of Kitchener-Waterloo-based Real Life Robotics, which received $242,127 for its short-haul urban food delivery robots alongside an undisclosed partner.

The project targets SkipTheDishes, Uber Eats, and DoorDosh with its BUBS robot that it claims is adept at navigating urban environments with minimal tele-supervision.


Google launches an AI-powered image generator

Underpinned by Imagen 2, a GenAI image model developed by Google’s DeepMind team, ImageFX offers a prompt-based UI to create and edit images. ImageFX’s unique twist is “expressive chips” — basically a list of keyword suggestions that let users experiment with “adjacent dimensions” of their creations and ideas.

Amazon also debuted ‘Rufus,’ an AI shopping assistant in its mobile app. Customers will be able to chat with Rufus inside Amazon’s mobile app to get help with finding products, performing product comparisons, and getting recommendations on what to buy.


AI-powered medical record reviewer Wisedocs closes $12.7-million CAD Series A round

Toronto-based Wisedocs has secured a $12.7-million CAD Series A round for its artificial intelligence (AI)-powered medical record review platform.

The startup’s AI-powered platform can sort, summarize, and review various forms of medical documents including PDFs, JPEG images, and faxes, cutting down processing time for insurance companies.


GM’s Cruise faces long road back to city streets in wake of safety review

General Motors’ Cruise self-driving car unit faces a trip that could last the better part of this year to convince regulators and a wary public that its robotaxis are fit to share the road with human drivers, industry officials said.

GM said on Tuesday it slashed about $1 billion from Cruise’s annual budget and promised to “soon” release a timeline for the unit’s return to operations.


Canada, UK sign agreements to work together on AI compute capacity, high-tech research

Canada and the United Kingdom have agreed to collaborate on research into high-tech sectors such as semiconductors and quantum, as well as expanding access to artificial intelligence compute capacity.

The two nations signed memorandums of understanding Wednesday. The first focused on promoting research and solutions in quantum, AI, semiconductors, engineering biology and clean energy.

The second agreement will see the UK and Canada partner to support researchers and the private sector with more affordable access to computing capacity for AI systems. 


Inovia report indicates Canadian software sector is returning to normal

Venture capital funding across the Canadian software sector is now seeing a return to normal after a challenging two years, signalling the start of a promising new phase, according to a new report from Inovia Capital.

2023 saw a fivefold increase in generative AI startup investments worldwide, with Canadian companies such as Cohere, CentML, and Spellbook Canada counting among them. According to the data in Inovia’s report, Canada is home to nearly 700 AI startups and ranks fourth globally in generative AI companies per capita.


AI Startup Codeium Is Valued at $500 Million in Financing Round

Codeium, a startup that combines artificial intelligence and coding, has raised $65 million in another sign of investor enthusiasm for generative AI.

Kore.ai, a company developing enterprise-focused conversational AI and GenAI products, also announced that it raised $150 million.

(BNN Bloomberg)

Workspace analytics startup Relogix acquired by HubStar

Ottawa-based workplace analytics startup Relogix has been acquired by London and Marlborough, Mass HubStar for an undisclosed amount.

The deal is aimed at combining HubStar’s analytics capabilities and deep learning technology with Relogix’s analytics platform, Conexus. HubStar said the acquisition is hoped to make HubStar a leader in AI-powered workplace utilization intelligence.


Amid rising business costs, GoDaddy’s Young Lee shares how Canadian companies can keep them in check

The cost of doing business in Canada is rising, and compounding this problem is a wave of hidden costs that often elude initial budgeting and catch entrepreneurs and small businesses by surprise.

As Young Lee, Canada market and growth lead at GoDaddy puts it, “Canadian small businesses are stretched thinner than ever, particularly when it comes to their finances.” 

As business costs continue to rise, Lee talked to BetaKit about how Canadian small business owners can keep expenses in check.


Amazon terminates iRobot deal, Roomba maker to lay off 31% of staff

Amazon said on Monday it would not move forward with a planned acquisition of vacuum-maker iRobot, with the two companies saying in a release there was “no path to regulatory approval for the deal.”

The Roomba maker also announced it would lay off 31 percent of its employees, around 350 people, and that its chair and CEO, Colin Angle, would step down effective immediately.


Government of Canada finally launches consultations on SR&ED modernization

As promised late last month, the federal government has now launched consultations on its Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax incentive program.

The Department of Finance is seeking feedback on how to modernize and improve SR&ED in “cost-neutral ways” and the suitability of adopting a patent box regime by April 15, as it considers whether to give firms that develop and keep IP in Canada a tax break on sales of their inventions globally.


Femtum raises $5 million CAD to commercialize lasers for semiconductor manufacturers

Québec City-based advanced manufacturing startup Femtum has closed over $5 million CAD in seed funding for its laser technology for the semiconductor industry.

“This strategic investment will catalyze Femtum’s engagement with high-tech manufacturers and innovators globally; we are excited to work with world-class strategic partners for our ambitious goal of becoming a standard in semiconductor laser manufacturing,” Robichaud said in a statement.


Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl is a staff writer and newsletter curator at BetaKit with a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University. He's interested in tech, gaming, and sports. You can find out more about him at alexriehl.com or @RiehlAlex99 on Twitter.

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