Two Canadian startups have recently announced new funding to fuel their growth. Here’s the latest on who raised, how much, from whom, and what they’ll be putting the new funds toward.
RockMass Technologies raises $2.5 million seed round
Industrial tech startup for the mining industry, Rockmass Technologies, has raised a $2.5 million CAD seed round of financing.
Venture capital firm and accelerator SOSV invested in the round, with matching investment from BDC Capital’s Bridge Financing Program. It also included strategic angel investors from Maple Leaf Angels and the Creative Destruction Lab.
RockMass is headquartered in Toronto and commercialized what began as a PhD thesis from Queen’s University. It provides technology for industrial sectors that gives access to consistent and accurate geological data.
RockMass’ products are reportedly used in underground mining operations around the world. The startup provides tech such as computer vision, machine learning, and robotics research to create safer and more efficient mining environments. Its claims that its flagship product, the Axis Mapper, is the first handheld hardware-software tool able to digitally measure geotechnical data underground, within seconds.
The startup was founded by CEO Shelby Yee, president Matthew Gubasta, and CTO Stuart Bourne in 2016. It is an alumni of the Creative Destruction Lab, Next Canada, and HAX Hardware Accelerator, the latter of which is part of SOSV.
Yee told BetaKit the need for remote work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic led to an evolution of digital procurement in the mining industry, which in turn benefited RockMass.
“We are excited to be working with some of the largest gold and base metals producers,” said Yee. “Our 2020 pilot program is oversubscribed and spans across Canada, USA, Brazil, Peru, and Greenland. The mining market remains strong, especially within the precious metals sector. Mines have needed to increase their digital footprint as they are tasked with less personnel underground while maintaining production results.”
RockMass will use the capital to expand its global presence, extend its product offerings to geologists and geotechnical engineers, and integrate its tools with major software analytics players. The startup also noted that it has partnered with an undisclosed, “major global infrastructure company” in order to expand into a new vertical.
DarwinAI raises investment led by Honeywell Ventures
Waterloo-based startup DarwinAI has secured funding to further develop its explainable artificial intelligence platform.
The company did not disclose the exact size of the investment, noting only that it raised a round led by Honeywell Ventures. A spokesperson for Darwin AI told BetaKit the investment is “in the range of” $5 million USD.
The funding is in addition to’s DarwinAI seed round, which closed in 2018 with $3.9 million CAD ($3 million USD). The startup came out of stealth mode at the time. The round was co-led by Obvious Ventures and Inovia Capital, and angels from the Creative Destruction Lab accelerator in Toronto.
DarwinAI has shifted focus to the defence industry, in addition to a COVID-19 solution.
In addition to Honeywell Ventures, investors in the latest round included ACVC partners, REDDS Capital, undisclosed existing investors and “numerous angels.”
The latest round brings Darwin AI’s total seed financing to approximately $8 million USD. DarwinAI’s co-founder and CEO Sheldon Fernandez told BetaKit his startup had been planning to raise a Series A in 2020, though decided not to, citing the pandemic and “its ripple effects on the global economy, logistics around travel, [and] investor dynamics.” The CEO added that DarwinAI’s latest investment was at a “significant[ly] higher valuation” than its 2018 raise and the startup now has sites set on a Series A raise in 2021 or early 2022.
Founded in 2017, DarwinAI seeks to combat the “black box” problem, aiming to create explainable AI that allows enterprises to build AI models they can trust. Its founding team includes Fernandez, also a co-founder of software consultancy Infusion, which was acquired by Avanade last year. DarwinAI’s founding team also includes chief scientist Alexander Wong, a professor at the University of Waterloo, and COO Arif Virani, a former McKinsey & Company technology consultant.
Fernandez told BetaKit the pandemic has shifted the industries DarwinAI works with. Prior to COVID-19, one of the startup’s key verticals was the automotive space, now DarwinAI has shifted focus to the defence industry, in addition to a COVID-19 solution.
In March, DarwinAI created COVID-Net, a neural network for COVID-19 detection via chest radiography. The tool was created in collaboration with the University of Waterloo and is aimed to accelerate the development of highly accurate deep learning solutions for detecting COVID-19 cases. Last month, the startup partnered with United States company Red Hat and Boston Children’s Hospital to accelerate the deployment of DarwinAI’s COVID-Net solution to hospitals and healthcare facilities.
Evidence of the defence industry shift is the $750,000 USD DarwinAI recently received from global aerospace company Lockheed Martin, which it partnered with earlier this year. The investment was part of Lockheed’s defence procurement deal with the federal government and is meant to help Darwin AI operationalize its COVID-Net initiative.
“We’ve garnered strong commercial traction in certain verticals (e.g., defense), and this capital is intended to help us capitalize on this traction across key verticals,” said Fernandez in a statement to BetaKit.
In addition to Honeywell’s investment in Darwin AI, the two companies are collaborating to employ AI for a variety of use-cases across various lines of business.
“DarwinAI’s platform facilitates improved performance in deep learning models on our embedded platforms, providing greater accuracy with a smaller footprint,” Mike Stewart, the head of advanced technology group at Honeywell Aerospace. “Explainability is crucial to certifying AI models for airborne applications and we believe Darwin’s capabilities will enable us to develop trustworthy AI.”
DarwinAI plans to use its seed extension to grow its team and invest in marketing and sales to accelerate its go-to-market efforts in 2021.
Feature image courtesy Rockmass Technologies