Halifax-based enterprise software developer QRA Corp has raised $3.76 million CAD ($3 million USD) in financing as the startup looks to grow its team and develop its technology, which helps product engineers manage complex engineering requirements.
Over the last 18 months, QRA said its revenue has more than doubled.
QRA offers natural language processing software for manufacturing clients. The startup’s QVscribe offering is a tool used by product design teams at medical device, energy, automotive, and aerospace manufacturers. Three years ago, QRA signed a $645,000 contract to provide QVscribe to the Royal Canadian Air Force.
The funding round, which QRA classifies as a “pre-Series A,” saw participation from return investor Innovacorp, and new investors Newfund Capital and BDC Capital, through its bridge financing program. To date, QRA has raised a total of $5 million CAD ($4 million USD) in venture capital, and $3 million in repayable government funding through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, which the startup received in 2016.
The raise follows a significant increase in the demand for QRA’s automated software solution during COVID-19. Over the last 18 months, the company said its revenue has more than doubled.
The startup plans to use the new funding to meet this demand by expanding its sales, marketing, and support teams to meet this demand among clients in North America and Europe. Jordan Kyriakidis, QRA’s co-founder and CEO, told BetaKit the company aims to put most of the financing towards business development, but added that the firm also plans to deepen its technology stack.
“We see a lot of opportunity with the way the world is changing,” said Kyriakidis in an interview. “We’re in a pretty strong position to begin with, and now’s the chance for us to look beyond COVID, and try to find our place in a post-COVID world.”
The startup’s product uses natural language processing, language models, and artificial intelligence, as well as some rules-based approaches to inspect project requirement specifications and “alerts product designers to potential errors as they occur.”
According to QRA, detecting and correcting these errors can help companies save “millions of dollars in rework and redesign.” The company also claims it “has the potential to protect lives and avoid litigation by reducing product failures in the field.”
Kyriakidis attributes the rise in demand QRA has experienced to a few factors: the decrease in face-to-face interactions associated with the rise of remote work, the increasing complexity of manufacturing equipment and requirements, and COVID-19. “It’s kind of a perfect storm of all these three things happening at once,” he said.
The CEO said that the startup has experienced the most demand for its solution in the medical device industry, closely followed by the automotive sector.
Kyriakidis, who currently sits on a federal government AI advisory panel, calls himself “an accidental entrepreneur.” He began his career in theoretical physics as an associate professor at Dalhousie University, doing quantum computing and quantum nanoelectronics. Around 2012, Kyriakidis identified an issue that he couldn’t address as an academic.
“I saw a problem that needed to be solved, and I didn’t know how to do it in academia, so I had to build a product, then I had to build a company,” said Kyriakidis.
Newfund partner Henri Deshays said his firm was impressed by the quality of QRA’s team, machine reasoning approach, and “focus on mission critical systems.”
According to Kyriakidis, most engineering problems are not caused by poor design, but by poorly written and ambiguous requirements.
“To solve this problem at the source, our solution applies multiple technologies, including natural language processing and language models to automatically check and verify requirements for clarity, consistency, and compliance against company and industry standards,” said the CEO.
Amid the increasing application of automation to manufacturing and coding tasks, Kyriakidis anticipates a rising need for tech that empowers humans to interpret difficult-to-decipher engineering requirements upfront.
Jérôme Nycz, executive VP at BDC Capital, agrees. “QRA’s software offers an added-value solution for businesses, helping them manage increasing complexity of systems in sectors like aerospace and industrial automation,” he said.
“I feel pretty strongly, [and] the trends are pretty clear that manufacturing is going to become automated, a lot of coding is going to become automated, and we’re already seeing that,” said Kyriakidis. “Where I see QRA is sitting right at the interface of helping the humans guide these machines, and it’s almost an act of co-creation.”
The QRA team is currently at 15, and the startup plans to add at least five more employees in the near future.
Image courtesy of QRA Corp