Five Canadian startups crack CB Insights’ 2022 AI 100 list

Raquel Urtasun, founder and CEO of Waabi.
Waabi founder and CEO Raquel Urtasun.
Four out of the five Canadian companies come from Toronto.

Five Canadian artificial intelligence (AI) companies have been named in CB Insights’ sixth annual AI 100 list, which aims to highlight the most promising and innovative private AI startups in the world.

CB Insights’ 2022 roster includes Cohere, TrojAI, Untether AI, Waabi, and Private AI.

All five of the Canadian startups named this year are joining as new additions to the list. Four out of five of them are from Toronto, with TrojAI being the sole company outside of the Ontario city with its headquarters in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Using the CB Insights platform, the research firm picked its list of 100 from a pool of over 7,000 companies, including applicants and nominees. CB Insights bases its decisions on factors such as R&D activity, its own scoring system, market potential, business relationships, investor profile, news sentiment analysis, competitive landscape, team strength, and tech novelty.

Overall, CB Insights claims that companies on the 2022 list have collectively raised more than $12 billion in capital from 650 investors, across over 300 equity deals since 2017.

This year’s winners represent 10 different countries. Seventy-three of the selected companies are anchored in the United States (US), with the United Kingdom coming in second place with eight winners, and Canada following closely with its group of five.

Nearly one-third of the companies in this year’s cohort are working on solutions to support the AI lifecycle, including data annotation, model training, model monitoring, and algorithmic bias. CB Insights also noted that forty-three of this year’s winners are focused on applying AI to use cases specific to different industries, such as gaming, healthcare, and construction.

One such industry-specific company is Waabi, which was launched last June by Canadian AI luminary Raquel Urtasun. Waabi is developing an end-to-end trainable platform for self-driving that is capable of complex reasoning.

Waabi emerged from stealth with over $100 million CAD ($83.5 million USD) in Series A funding. This financing marked one of the largest rounds of initial financing ever raised by a Canadian startup. Waabi’s investors include Khosla Ventures, 8VC, Uber, BDC Capital, OMERS Ventures, and Toronto’s Radical Ventures.

RELATED: Untether AI secures $1 million for partnership with General Motors

Of the five Canadian startups that managed to crack the list, Untether is ranked the highest in terms of total funding to date, having raised around $297 million. Untether recently entered a two-year partnership with General Motors, tied to a $1 million investment from the Ontario government through the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network R&D Partnership Fund.

Founded in 2019, Untether provides high-performance AI chips that can be used in a variety of applications. This includes banking and financial services, as well as natural language processing, autonomous vehicles, smart cities, and retail.

In July last year, Untether revealed $125 million in a funding round that was co-led by New York-based Tracker Capital and existing investor Intel Capital. It also saw participation from new investor Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), and Untether’s other previous investors, including Radical Ventures.

Also backed by Radical Ventures is Cohere, which has raised $165 million in total capital to date. Co-founded by CEO Aidan Gomez, Ivan Zhang, and Nick Frosst in 2019, Cohere aims to make natural language processing (NLP) more accessible.

Cohere claims its API enables companies to deploy NLP capabilities across their businesses without requiring supercomputing infrastructure or AI expertise. The startup noted this feature “radically reduces the cost for companies of all sizes to access leading AI models.”

In February last year, Cohere secured $159 million CAD ($125 million USD) in Series B financing to fuel its US expansion plans. Cohere also previously raised $50.4 million CAD ($40 million USD) for its Series A round, in which Radical Ventures participated, along with Waabi’s Urtasun.

RELATED: Cohere closes $125 million USD Series B round led by Tiger Global

M12 Ventures, the venture capital arm of Microsoft, and astronaut Chris Hadfield are among the entities that make up Private AI’s diverse investor base. Founded in 2019, Private AI’s tool is used to redact sensitive information from text.

Private AI’s models are able to achieve greater than 99 percent accuracy in identifying and redacting personal data across more than fifty different entities, such as name, address, blood type, zodiac sign, credit card number, in seven different languages. In September, Private AI secured $3.15 million in an oversubscribed seed round.

Coming in as the only Canadian company based outside of Toronto in the list is TrojAI. Based in New Brunswick, TrojAI develops solutions to protect AI platforms from adversarial attacks on training data and AI models, such as poisoning or embedded Trojan and evasion attacks.

Earlier this year, TrojAI closed $3 million in seed funding, co-led by Seattle’s Flying Fish Ventures and the Atlantic Canada venture capital fund Build Ventures. It also previously secured a $750,000 CAD equity funding round in early 2021.

Another company that made the list is Crossing Minds. Although Crossing Minds is based in San Francisco, the startup opened an office in Toronto in January that houses five of the firm’s 22 employees. Radical Ventures is also an investor in Crossing Minds, leading its Series A round.

Featured image courtesy of Waabi.

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz is a staff writer for BetaKit.

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