Samdesk secures $13.5 million to fuel expansion of crisis detection and monitoring platform

Edmonton-based software startup Samdesk, which offers a disruption monitoring tool for businesses and first responders, has raised $13.5 million CAD in Series A financing to expand the reach of its platform.

Samdesk’s all-equity, all-primary round was led by Toronto-based McRock Capital and supported by fellow new investors Boston-based HarbourVest and Export Development Canada. Calgary’s Adventure Capital, which led Samdesk’s $3.6 million seed round in 2020, also participated in the round, alongside several other undisclosed existing shareholders. The new capital brings Samdesk’s total funding to date to $20 million.

“It’s been a pretty crazy two years for Samdesk,” said Samdesk’s James Neufeld.

The Series A financing follows the startup’s recent rebrand from Social Asset Management (SAM) to Samdesk and a strong year of sales fuelled by COVID-19, as the pandemic led companies to invest in risk detection and mitigation strategies.

Armed with fresh funding, Samdesk plans to grow its sales, marketing, and customer success teams to support its expansion to more regions, and invest in platform development to help its public and corporate sector clients detect more critical events.

“It’s been a pretty crazy two years for Samdesk,” James Neufeld, Samdesk’s founder and CEO told BetaKit. “We’re a crisis detection monitoring platform. We’ve all been living through a pretty big crisis over the last little while, and I think for us in particular, what that really solidified was our position in the market, and the need for tools like ours.”

Founded in 2013, Samdesk offers an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered crisis monitoring platform that delivers real-time alerts and updates to public and corporate sector customers. The startup pulls data from social media, sensory sources, government websites, and proprietary sources and analyzes it using AI. Samdesk claims it is able to notify its customers of various crises “45 minutes faster on average” than traditional media, providing information that enables organizations to act more quickly to protect their employees, brands, and assets.

Samdesk’s alerts help a wide variety of organizations detect and monitor crisis events ranging from political unrest, to fires, COVID-19 lockdowns, traffic accidents, travel service disruptions, natural disasters, and more. Samdesk has customers in a wide variety of sectors, including Siemens, BBC, Transport for London, The New York Times, the Charlotte Hornets, the University of Alberta, and Amnesty International.

The startup initially got its start as a “pure social media” play designed to help newsrooms monitor breaking news. In addition to monitoring social media, Samdesk has since expanded to pulling and analyzing data from a variety of other sources. The startup collects information from the open web via its own web crawler, which pulls data from over 100,000 open web data sources like government websites. It also draws data from proprietary sources, and sensory sources like shot detection systems and satellite imagery, for uses that range from wildfire detection to congestion monitoring.

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“Protecting and managing critical infrastructure (including assets and people) is an essential pillar of McRock’s industrial IoT investment strategy,” Whitney Rockley, co-founder and managing partner of McRock Capital, told BetaKit. “Samdesk’s AI-powered solution helps organizations secure their most valuable resources in crisis and ensures business continuity.”

Rockley, who is joining Samdesk’s board as part of the round, added that Samdesk’s platform, coupled with its diverse leadership team, inclusive culture, and worldwide customer base, “makes it a perfect Canadian tech company that is capable of competing on a global stage.”

In addition to the pandemic, Neufeld said businesses today have to navigate the increased threat of global warming, and surges in workplace violence and global unrest.

“We decided to raise based, in large part, because of what we consider the groundswell of all of these underlying factors that are really impacting employee safety, business continuity, and a lot of the things that we try to help with to stabilize businesses, but also to make sure that they’re still safe places to operate,” said Neufeld.

According to Neufeld, Samdesk got “really, really busy” during the pandemic, as inbound demand for its platform increased and existing customers sought to ramp up their contracts with the startup to navigate supply chain uncertainty and ensure safe business travel and returns to in-person work amid COVID-19 and other global crises.

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Neufeld added that 65 percent of the companies Samdesk dealt with last quarter “didn’t have a fully fleshed out” corporate security or business continuity program.

“So many new people are coming to this market that we’re serving now that have, historically, never [seen] the need, or didn’t have the need, I should say, for a tool like this,” said Neufeld.

For Samdesk, the path to growth will involve a combination of market expansion and education, as it looks to help what Neufeld described as “a historically old school industry” digitize and build out various crisis response programs.

The majority of Samdesk’s clients are in the corporate sector, including business continuity and security teams at Fortune 500 companies. The startup also serves public sector clients like first responders, and has recently noticed “a significant amount of traction” among smart city initiatives.

“We really wanted to step on the gas … we want to make sure that we’re expanding into more regions of the world, and also detecting more critical events for different clients,” said Neufeld.

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Presently, the startup’s platform detects more than 43 different types of crisis events in over 20 languages, but Neufeld sees more room to grow.

“As we go deeper into each of our client’s risk profiles and the things that they struggle with, there’s real opportunities for us to build up more event detection models,” said Neufeld.

Samdesk’s platform currently detects 80,000 to 90,000 critical events per month, which Neufeld said can potentially lead to the output of its system being “really noisy.” To better ensure its clients aren’t bombarded with information, the startup plans to invest in integrations with company systems so as to provide more targeted alerts.

Based in Edmonton with an office in London, England, Samdesk currently has 35 employees. The startup is looking to add 15 to 20 more people to its team over the next year in various roles, including customer success, as it looks to better help its new and existing clients spot various crises.

Feature image courtesy of Samdesk

Josh Scott

Josh Scott

Josh Scott is a BetaKit staff writer who loves to tell Canadian business and tech stories. His coverage is more complete than his moustache.