Montreal-based Stradigi, a software development firm, is launching an applied research centre focused on developing AI solutions in medical, healthcare, sport, and ecommerce.
To launch the lab, the company raised an undisclosed multi-million dollar investment from The Dunn Family (family trust of legendary business icon Sir Herbert Holt), Panache Ventures, Mike Cegelski, and Stradigi Ventures. The latter is the company’s own venture arm.
Stradigi Labs will be led by lab co-founder and chief science officer Carolina Bessega, who has over 20 years of experience working in machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing, data augmentation, and neural networks. Bessega tells BetaKit that she had been working on neural networks in 2002 at the Universidad Central de Venezuela.
“We get them in at an early stage, help them build an MVP, and they benefit from advisors.”
“The economy is booming, Canada is full of talent, multicultural, and diverse, and I have worked all my life in technology,” said Bessega, who came to Canada in 2010 as the Venezuela economy began to decline. “Tech is growing in Canada, especially in Montreal. That was a clear trend even at that moment.”
Basil Bouraropolous, CEO of Stradigi, said that clients had been approaching the firm from 2014 looking to bring AI into their companies “This was something we were seeing a huge demand for, and something we really have the expertise in.”
The lab will work in two ways: it will support early-stage companies with access to its venture arm, industry advisors, and space to build out a scalable company; or it will incubate its own ideas in-house, working with advisors to identify problems. Once an idea has reached maturity, Stradigi decides whether to spin it off into its own company or find business licensing opportunities.
“We have a very broad range of talented people in the lab,” said Bessega. “Right now, we have 18 research scientists. We come from different backgrounds; we have physics, chemistry, mathematics, and computer scientists. The brainstorming we do as a team in each one of the problems we are solving, we find a lot of different potential solutions.”
The first company spun out of the lab, Propulse Analytics, built a custom AI solution to better understand a customer’s path to purchase for retailers. Stradigi, which was part of a $1.4 million investment in the company earlier this year, says that the image recognition technology recently helped a millennial clothing brand amplify sales 2.5x in a matter of months.
Current research projects the lab is working on include working with leading medical institutions for targeted treatments in areas of heart disease and pain management, and addressing social tools in areas like cyber-bullying & self-harm.
“Having a 360 solution for us is important,” said Bouraropolous. “If you look at companies that are early stage, the biggest mistake they make is their MVP. The MVP ends up costing a lot more. We shield them from that, we get them in at an early stage, help them build an MVP, and they benefit from our advisors.”
The AI Lab will hire 30 new employees, and Stradigi has secured 13,000 square feet of office space in the penthouse of the historic Hermes Building, in addition to the 9,000 square feet the company currently occupies. While the lab joins giants like Element AI in Montreal’s AI ecosystem, Bessega and Bouraropoulos agree that it’s not a competitive environment and that there’s “room for everyone.”
“I see it as an advantage because more companies and more talented companies here, meaning more talented people moving to Montreal, so it’s easier to hire good researchers,” said Bessega. “It’s easier to hire really good recruits and right now amount of conferences and events around AI that’s happening right now make our knowledge grow in an incredible way.”