Shopify makes strategic investment in US AI recommendation startup Crossing Minds

Crossing Minds plots Canadian expansion with new Toronto office.

Ottawa-based e-commerce giant Shopify has invested in American artificial intelligence (AI) company Crossing Minds.

According to Crossing Minds, the investment marks Shopify’s first in an AI-powered recommendation platform.

Fjolla Bakalli, Shopify’s manager of corporate development and strategic initiatives, said in a press release statement that the company’s strategic investment in Crossing Minds will help Shopify merchants “meet customer’s evolving needs” by providing product recommendations and personalized experiences.

According to Crossing Minds, the investment marks Shopify’s first in an AI-powered recommendation platform.

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, which led Crossing Minds’ Series A round, is also headquartered in Toronto.

In an interview with BetaKit, Crossing Minds co-founder and CEO Alexandre Robicquet—who is located in Vancouver—said that the startup wanted to dip its toes into Toronto’s machine learning talent pool and work more closely with Shopify.

When asked to confirm the exact amount of the investment by BetaKit, Shopify’s communications team did not respond. Robicquet also declined to disclose how much Shopify put into the startup to BetaKit, saying only that the size of the investment is “substantial,” and describing Shopify as a significant partner to Crossing Minds. Neither Bakalli nor anyone else from Shopify was made available for an interview.

For Shopify, the Crossing Minds deal represents the company’s latest in a long line of strategic investments in and acquisitions of tech startups, many of which serve Shopify’s merchant ecosystem.

Shopify has previously invested in Vancouver bookkeeping firm Bench, Israel-based e-commerce marketing company Yotpo, US customer relationship software startup Loop. Shopify also holds sizeable stakes in American payment processing firm Stripe and buy now, pay later company Affirm.

According to Bloomberg, Shopify is also reportedly in talks to buy San Francisco-based Deliverr, which provides fulfillment services to e-commerce merchants on marketplace platforms like Shopify. Shopify has made a number of strategic acquisitions to date, buying companies like Handshake to support its merchants and expand its platform. Earlier this month, Shopify quietly acquired New York’s Dovetale.

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Crossing Minds was founded in 2017 by Robicquet, CTO Emile Contal, and Sebastian Thrun, formerly of Google X—Google’s secretive research and development (R&D) division. Crossing Minds’ platform uses AI to help businesses build stronger relationships with their customers, delivering recommendations that don’t jeopardize or infringe upon user privacy because they don’t use personal customer data or third-party cookies.

“Crossing Minds is leading the future of recommendation and personalization through best-in-class AI that will ultimately enable Shopify merchants to build stronger relationships with their customers,” said Bakalli in the press release.

The Shopify investment came as an extension to Crossing Minds’ $10 million USD Series A round, which the startup announced last October. This round was led by Toronto’s Radical, which specializes in AI companies. Crossing Minds’ raise came shortly after Radical expanded its leadership team by adding a new partner in San Francisco, where Crossing Minds is headquartered.

According to Robicquet, although Crossing Minds’ recommendation and personalization tech can apply to a number of different verticals, e-commerce is the “most demanding,” and “most starving for it” given that it can have such a clear impact on businesses’ bottom line. “We can play such a significant role there,” he added.

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When asked what Crossing Minds plans to invest the capital from Shopify in, Robicquet said, “Canada, R&D, and building the team.”

“This is really our number one focus,” said the CEO. By the end of the year, Crossing Minds aims to grow its Canadian team to 10 to 12 employees, across AI, marketing, and sales functions.

Crossing Minds platform is now available to Shopify merchants as an unlisted app. The company plans to work with individual customers to roll out its platform.

Going forward, one of the “core” research projects Crossing Minds’ Canadian team has been tasked with is working on “automatic machine learning,” which Robicquet said will make the startup’s platform more scalable as it moves towards more of a self-service approach.

Feature image courtesy Shopify.

Josh Scott

Josh Scott

Josh Scott is a BetaKit reporter focused on telling in-depth Canadian tech stories and breaking news. His coverage is more complete than his moustache.

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