The Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF), backed by the City of Calgary, announced Wednesday that it has invested a collective $7.25 million into AltaML and Harvest Builders to help scale tech companies in the city.
Both AltaML and Harvest are also set to open offices in downtown Calgary; with Harvest headquartered in East Village, a reportedly growing hub of innovation, tech, and entrepreneurial space in the city.
Harvest is a new organization that calls itself a “Canadian Prairie venture builder.” The group is set to receive up to $4 million over three years from OCIF. The investment is meant to help develop an infrastructure to build, grow, and scale new technology ventures in Calgary and across Western Canada.
Harvest works to co-build startups by connecting founders and tech talent across Canada. The not-for-profit organization was founded by Chris Simair, co-founder and former CEO of SkipTheDishes.
“Our mission is to help fill the gaps within the Prairie tech ecosystem, which make it difficult for new ventures to not only get off the ground, but successfully scale into globally competitive companies,” said Simair who serves as Harvest’s CEO. “This investment will enable Harvest to expand our initial pilot, and work with founders to co-build new companies that will continue to fuel the funnel of new innovation and technology here in Calgary.”
According to OCIF, Harvest’s will initially focus on the FinTech and proptech sectors, with plans to expand to other portfolios in the future. The investment fund noted that, “if successful,” Harvest could result “in no less than” 290 high skill full-time personnel in Calgary engaged through the Harvest Platform over the four-year project period. Harvest has also reportedly forecasted that it will attract $30 million in “committed” private capital investment, at least half of which is projected to be deployed over the next four years.
AltaML, which is an artificial intelligence-focused software company that partners with organizations to co-develop solutions, is set to receive up to $3.25 million over three years from the OCIF. The funding is meant to help create applied data science internships to accelerate artificial intelligence and machine learning skill development in Calgary.
The internship program is targeted at addressing a “local shortage” of experienced AI and machine learning talent faced by Calgary companies. Fellow Alberta city, Edmonton, is known as one of the top three AI hubs in Canada.
“Calgary is an innovation hub across a number of sectors and creating the capacity for training and advancement through AltaML’s centre of excellence will further that reputation,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi, a member of the OCIF board of directors. “This investment will help grow the talent pipeline necessary to address the increased demand for professionals in the artificial intelligence and machine learning space.”
AltaML has partnered with ATB Financial and Spartan Controls to deliver the internship program. Discussions are also reported to be underway with Suncor Energy to participate in the initiative. The program will operate on a cohort basis with the first three-month cohort launching October 1. According to OCIF, over the program term, up to 240 individuals will have the opportunity to participate.
The OCIF was launched by the City of Calgary in April 2018 to support investments that create growth and jobs in “strategic sectors” identified in the City’s economic strategy. AltaML and Harvest are the 10th and 11th ventures to receive funding from the economic development fund.