A|I: The AI Times – Ex-CPPIB chief wants to raise $500M USD AI growth fund

Mark Machin, former CEO of CPPIB
Plus: the free tool that ‘poisons’ AI models.

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Ex-CPPIB CEO Mark Machin teams with former pension executive to launch AI growth fund

Ex-Canada Pension Plan Investment Board chief executive Mark Machin and a former senior lieutenant are raising a US$500-million growth capital fund to back artificial intelligence startups in Canada and abroad.

Intrepid Growth Partners is led by Mr. Machin and Mark Shulgan, who worked together at CPPIB when Mr. Shulgan co-founded and led the pension fund’s growth equity unit from 2009 to 2018.

Their new fund seeks to invest in fast-growing AI companies that have reached US$10-million in annual sales and are on a path to achieve profitability.

(The Globe and Mail)

Spellbook secures $27-million CAD Series A to scale “AI copilot for lawyers”

Toronto-based legaltech startup Spellbook, which provides legal practitioners a generative artificial intelligence-powered tool for contract review and drafting, has secured $20 million USD ($27 million CAD) in Series A funding.

Spellbook said it plans to use the funding to quickly scale its solution to 30,000 law firms worldwide while continuing to add new functionalities that mimic “the style of a lawyer” to its platform.


Ontario privacy commissioner feels urgency to address ‘Wild West’ risks of AI

Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner says she feels “a sense of urgency” to act on artificial intelligence as her list of concerns with the technology mounts.

Patricia Kosseim’s worries about AI include it being used to spread misinformation, dupe Canadians, entrench biases and cause discrimination. She says AI chatbots like ChatGPT, which can quickly turn simple prompts from users into detailed text, are also concerning.

“When you prompt systems like ChatGPT, what you’re getting back is not an organized, curated librarian reference material,” she said in an interview. “It’s the Wild West, what you’re getting; not knowing what the source is, not knowing how it was created.”

(BNN Bloomberg)

Ontario invests $14.9 million into Waterloo Region’s Quantum Valley Ideas Lab

The Ontario government has announced an investment of up to $14.9 million for the Waterloo-based Quantum Valley Ideas Lab (QVIL).

The investment, which is being made through the province’s $107-million Critical Technology Initiatives program, is aimed to ramp up the development and adoption of quantum science tech in Ontario.

QVIL will use the new funding to add to its existing lab infrastructure for research in quantum sensing and offer co-op/internship programs for postdoctoral students and new graduates.


Anthropic’s Gross Margin Flags Long-Term AI Profit Questions

In the past year, artificial intelligence developer Anthropic has raised billions of dollars at a more than $15 billion valuation due to its fast revenue growth and big projections for future sales. But as Anthropic and scores of rivals mature, they’ll need to prioritize profit margins and cash flows if they want to build a sustainable business and have any hope of going public someday.

(The Information)

AI photography startup Skylab acquired by ImageQuix

Vancouver-based AI photo processing startup Skylab has been acquired by Raleigh, North Carolina-based ImageQuix, which offers software solutions to professional photographers. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

In a statement, CEO of ImageQuix Alex Kovacevic said the two companies have worked in “close partnership” since 2020, adding that the combined entity is hoped to drive greater efficiency and revenue for ImageQuix’s studio customers.


More Google DeepMind Staff Depart to Launch an AI Startup

Three Google researchers who helped develop artificial intelligence that generates images and music recently left the company to launch their own AI startup called Uncharted Labs, according to two people with direct knowledge of their plans and a securities filing.

It’s the latest example of top researchers who faced bureaucratic delays in launching their AI products at Google and decided to capitalize on venture investors’ enthusiasm for new companies in the field. The New York-based founders have raised $8.5 million out of a $10 million target, according to the filing, and they have met with potential investors including Andreessen Horowitz in recent months, according to one of the people.

(The Information)

Bagel Network closes $4.18 million CAD for machine learning data network

Toronto-based artificial intelligence and Web3 startup Bagel Network has closed a $4.18-million CAD ($3.1-million USD) pre-seed funding round as it looks to launch its machine learning data network.

Bagel Network is developing a marketplace where machine learning engineers, researchers, and artificial intelligence agents work together to build, trade, and license datasets. 


‘We want to be the AI company for finance’: What’s on the mind of MindBridge’s new CEO

Although the Great White North has lived up to its billing during Stephen DeWitt’s visit to Ottawa this week, the new chief executive of MindBridge Analytics seems to be enjoying every minute of it. “I’m having a blast,” says the 59-year-old tech industry lifer.

DeWitt sees a day in the not-too-distant future when MindBridge software will be an integral part of a customer’s entire financial workflow, analyzing everything from payroll deductions to credit card transactions. “We have a very simple mission: we want to be the AI company for finance,” he says.

(Ottawa Business Journal)

Interest rates remain unchanged (for now). What does that mean for Canadian tech in 2024?

Though it maintained interest rates on January 24, the Bank of Canada signalled it is beginning to contemplate cuts.

Canada’s tech sector could be poised for a recovery if interest rates do drop, but the playbook is much different this year for founders and investors, cautioned several industry insiders speaking to BetaKit.

The fastest hiking cycle on record, the Bank of Canada’s rate increases over the last two years battered the white-hot tech sector as deal flows slowed and valuations dropped. With those rates unchanged (for now), here’s what Canadian tech should expect in 2024.


U.S. FTC queries AI deals by Amazon, OpenAI, Microsoft, Anthropic

The antitrust and consumer protection agency said it sent subpoenas to the companies to gather information on how the development of AI is impacting the competitive landscape.

The inquiry focuses on more than US$19 billion in investments by Microsoft, Amazon and Google, in a series of transactions that cemented alliances between the world’s cloud services giants with the leading providers of artificial intelligence software.

Antitrust enforcers across the world have become concerned as many of the most promising AI startups now depend heavily on the old guard of dominant tech companies for their financing and infrastructure needs.

(BNN Bloomberg)

Nightshade, the free tool that ‘poisons’ AI models, is now available for artists to use

It’s here: months after it was first announced, Nightshade, a new, free software tool allowing artists to “poison” AI models seeking to train on their works, is now available for artists to download and use on any artworks they see fit.

It makes use of the popular open-source machine learning framework PyTorch to identify what’s in a given image, then applies a tag that subtly alters the image at the pixel level so other AI programs see something totally different than what’s actually there.


Vinod Khosla headlines CIX 2024 investment summit

Elevate, the nonprofit behind the Toronto tech festival of the same name, will host the first CIX investment summit this March after acquiring the brand.

Founded in 2008 as the Canadian Innovation Exchange, the annual conference aimed to showcase and award Canada’s most promising early-stage and scaling startups.

Elevate has also announced one of its keynote speakers for CIX 2024: Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems and founder of Khosla Ventures, which has invested in over 1,000 startups, including Canadian tech companies Deep Genomics and Blockstream.


Founder-led European tech investor Plural raises new €400mn fund

Plural, a tech investment firm led by some of Europe’s best known start-up founders, has raised €400mn to back the next generation of the region’s entrepreneurs at a time when funding is facing a downturn.

The fund backs “deep tech” start-ups that take on more complex problems, including nuclear fusion and precision medicine, investing in 26 companies since raising its first €250mn fund 18 months ago.

(Financial Times)

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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