Montreal / Waterloo Maluuba, AI deep learning startup, has been acquired by Microsoft

Microsoft has agreed to acquire Maluuba, a Montreal Waterloo based company with one of the world’s most impressive deep learning research labs for natural language understanding. Maluuba’s expertise in deep learning and reinforcement learning for question-answering and decision-making systems will help Microsoft advance their strategy to democratize AI and to make it accessible and valuable to everyone — consumers, businesses and developers.

No purchasing costs were disclosed.

Two Maluuba co-founders could not be happier – they wrote:


“Back in 2010, as classmates in our AI class (CS 486) at the University of Waterloo, we started to think about the way humans interacted with machines. Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) had been in use for 30 years and yet, they hadn’t changed much. For simple tasks they were easier to use than the command line interfaces, but for complex tasks we still resorted back to programming. We wondered why was this the case? Why couldn’t we just interact with computers the same way we interacted with each other everyday? We had to go to first principles and came to the realization that in order to achieve this level of natural interaction, we had to first develop algorithms that understand the way human beings communicate. Therefore, we had to have a very deep understanding about the fundamentals of human language; our memory and reasoning capabilities; as well the decision making process in our brain.

A couple of years later, we started to develop technology that could solve some of the basic problems of language understanding. At the time, the language understanding community (both academia and industry) was very intrigued by the early success of statistical machine learning algorithms in Personal Assistant systems like Siri. Users could make voice commands and do simple tasks like finding the weather, making a restaurant reservation or even playing some music from the phone. Besides the fact that these systems were extremely unscalable (built by engineers in a domain-by-domain fashion), brittle (keyword style queries worked) and gave users a very poor experience, these systems had a more fundamental flaw – they lacked the intelligence that humans have. In fact, this fallacy didn’t just hold for Personal Assistants, this was true for every machine out there. Machines just don’t think, reason or learn from their mistakes like we humans do. Machines neither have any common sense reasoning, nor they do have short-term, long-term or working memory like us.

In early 2014, we observed that great leaps had been achieved in the fields of computer vision and speech recognition through the application of Deep Learning algorithms. We were excited – if deep learning techniques could enable machines to see and hear like humans, then why not communicate like humans? As we all know, understanding human language is extremely complex and is ultimately the holy grail in the field of Artificial Intelligence. We finally saw a great opportunity to apply Deep Learning and Reinforcement Learning techniques to solve fundamental problems in language understanding, with the vision of creating a truly literate machine – one that could actually read, comprehend, synthesize, infer and make logical decisions like humans. This meant we had to heavily invest in research, therefore we started our Research lab in Montréal in late 2015 (in addition to our awesome engineering team in Waterloo). Our research lab, located at the epicentre of Deep Learning, is focused on advancing the state-of-the-art in deep learning for human language understanding. We have built a team of top Deep Learning Research Scientists and Engineers from around the world and built partnerships with leading academics in the field. We are extremely proud of the breakthroughs we have accomplished over the course of the year. So where are we in our quest for achieving ‘Machine Literacy’? Well, we are just getting started and are excited about the long road ahead.”

Harry Shum, EVP of Microsoft’s AI and research group, said :


“Maluuba’s impressive team is addressing some of the fundamental problems in language understanding by modeling some of the innate capabilities of the human brain, from memory and common sense reasoning to curiosity and decision making,” said Shum. “I’ve been in the AI research and development field for more than 20 years now, and I’m incredibly excited about the scenarios that this acquisition could make possible in conversational AI.”

Top 15 Canadian Tech Influencers to Follow On LinkedIn

Most of tech super stars come from the United States, but there are some who brave or used to brave the cold north of the border in Canada. A lot of them still continue to live and work in Canada. Some of them moved have moved to the US: Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Seattle, New York.

See our list of top influencers. Make sure to follow them today. Click on their LinkedIn profile (and then follow once there).

Tobias Lütke
Tobias Lütke is CEO and co-founder of Shopify, the marquee shopping cart system of the e-commerce industry. As a programmer Tobi has served on the core team of the Ruby on Rails framework and has created many popular open source libraries such as the Typo weblog engine, Liquid and Active Merchant.

Randy Blumer
Online poker software developer for subscription based play for fun poker sites PlanetPoker.com and SkillRide.com

Allen Lau
Wattpad’s CEO and co-founder. 3x entrepreneur. Failed the first one. Sold the second one. Singing amazing grace in the third one.

Tim Bray
Tim Bray co-invented the XML web standard and now works for Amazon

Ryan Holmes
A serial entrepreneur, Ryan Holmes started his first business in high school, ultimately opening a string of ventures – from a pizza restaurant to a digital media agency – before starting Hootsuite in 2008. As founder and CEO, he has helped grow Hootsuite into the world’s most widely used social relationship platform, with 10-million-plus users, including 800 of the Fortune 1000 companies.

William Mougayar
Uniquely versed and experienced in the North American startup ecosystem via networked relationships with VC’s, startups, founders and influencers.

Rahul Sood
Founder of VoodooPC, luxury PC maker. CEO and founder of Unikrn, a gaming and eSports company based in Seattle.

Stephen Elop
Elop has a computer engineering degree—from McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. Was president and CEO of Nokia as well as Microsoft.

Andy Yang
Founder at 500px. The premier community for inspiring photography.

Mike Lazaridis
Greek – Canadian. Co-founder of Research in Motion / Blackberry. Investing heavily into Waterloo Ontario region

Ted Livingston
Founder and CEO of Kik. Kik Messenger is a proprietary instant messenger software application (app) for mobile devices.

Ethan Song
He is the CEO and Co-founder FRANK & OAK where he handles the member shopping experience, products development, marketing and sales.

Howard Lindzon
In 2008 Lindzon co-founded StockTwits, and is Chairman today. StockTwits was recently named “one of the top 10 most innovative companies in web” by Fast Company and one of the “50 best websites” by Time.

James Gosling
Father of Java. Working at Liquid Robotics – Hacking ocean-going robots and housing their data in a cloud. Is he related to Ryan Gosling? No, they are not! James Gosling is a world renowned computer scientist, better known as the Father of Java programming language, while Ryan Gosling is a famous Hollywood actor, director and screenwriter. However, they both are Canadians, so they are related in some aspect.

Anyone we missed let us know in the comment section below.

Vancouver Routific delivers Optimization Software For Delivery Businesses / raises $1.2M USD

We help last-mile delivery businesses save up to 40% on driving time and fuel with our industry-leading route optimization software.

Who started the company? Do you / team members have tech background?


Marc Kuo is Founder and CEO of Routific. He wrote his thesis on complex vehicle routing and scheduling problems. After graduation, Marc worked as a logistics consultant in the Netherlands and then as an algorithmic trader in Hong Kong. He started Routific because he saw so much waste in the supply chain, and recognized that he could do something to help reduce inefficiencies on a grand scale.


Routific’s co-founders come from very diverse backgrounds. CTO Andre Soesilo is a former Microsoft software engineer. COO Andrew Kwok is a mechanical engineer by training and has spent the last decade in a technical sales role in Southeast Asia. CMO Suzanne Ma is an award-winning journalist and published author.


Our growing team is diverse and made up of software engineers, designers, sales people and marketers. You can learn more about Routific’s team here and here.

How are you being financed?

Routific was one of ten teams accepted into Techstars Chicago in 2015. We managed to raise seed funding after the program’s Demo Day.

What do you think will be / is a big obstacle to overcome?

Our team is focused on growth. For marketing, that means bringing more qualified leads to Routific.com. For sales, it’s about converting those leads into customers. And for our engineers, it means constantly shipping improvements to our software to accommodate our growing customer base.

How do you go about finding good developers / IT guys for your company?
Sometimes word of mouth and referrals. We post jobs on Angellist. And we’ve managed to find some great talent from the University of British Columbia’s computer science co-op program.

The power and efficiency of our proprietary algorithm combined with a stellar user experience makes Routific the best routing solution for the mid-tier market.

Who is your biggest competition?

We have a handful of direct competitors in the space. What distinguishes us from them is our mission to be the most accessible and easy-to-use routing software on the market. Our team is also constantly shipping improvements to the software, so Routific is always innovating and evolving.

How are you intending on taking your company to million dollars in revenues? In what markets?

Delivery businesses are on the rise with the popularity of e-commerce, and growing demands from consumers. Routific has come to the market at just the right time. Our software is being leveraged by hundreds of businesses across the globe in many different verticals. We’ll continue shipping beautiful software, and we’ll continue to onboard new businesses every day.

What is the big lesson you’ve learned (success or failure) with this project.

Find good co-founders. Build a founding team that shares the same core values. Do this and you’ll succeed at whatever you do!

Website: www.routific.com

Montreal based Mobeewave allows cell phone users to accept payments

Based in Montreal, Mobeewave has developed a solution that enables anyone to accept money in person using just their phones. Harnessing the NFC capability and secure element of modern mobile devices, this patented innovation makes it possible for individuals or merchants to collect payment anywhere by simply tapping a phone with a contactless credit card or mobile wallet.

Who started the company? Do you / team members have tech background?

Mobeewave was founded by Benjamin du Haÿs and Maxime de Nanclas. Both co-founders have tech backgrounds having previously worked in the payment and embedded systems industries. The Mobeewave team has expertise in a host of subjects including NFC technology, microelectronics, digital payment and mobile architecture and ecosystems.

How are you being financed?

Mobeewave closed its Series A round of investment – which was led by SBT Venture Capital – in February 2015. The company is currently in the process of finalizing its second round of funding. Mobeewave has also received support from Créativité Quebec and Investissement Quebec.

What do you think will be / is a big obstacle to overcome?

Developing a partnership with smartphone providers and gaining access to the security components on devices has taken time. But by working closely with them – as well as payment technology companies and financial institutions – we have gained valuable insight and support, along with the opportunity to carryout practical applications of our solution.

How do you go about finding good developers / IT guys for your company?

In addition to building a network of developers, the company participates in various startup meetups. By organizing such events at our offices and also gaining local press coverage, the company has been able to present what life is like at Mobeewave. The company also regularly attends jobs fairs, leverages developer platforms and engages recruitment agencies.

Who is your biggest competition?

As the only certified in-person payment service, Mobeewave’s patented technology doesn’t really have a direct competitor. With the potential to be used in both the P2P and micro-merchant space, Mobeewave can be both an alternative and a complement to services like PayPal, Venmo, Square and iZettle.

How are you intending on taking your company to million dollars in revenues? In what markets?

We’re working with acquirers, issuing banks, payment technology companies and smartphone manufacturers, particularly in mature contactless markets – such as Australia and Canada. Our aim is to continue to leverage our relationships with such organizations to make our technology available to both merchants and consumers. We plan to soon replicate this approach in expanding contactless markets like the US and the UK, as well as emerging markets – such as India.

What is the big lesson you’ve learned (success or failure) with this project?

We’ve learned that as we move towards a more cashless world, there’s a real need for a practical and secure digital alternative to in-person cash transactions. We’ve been encouraged to discover that not only do financial institutions and payment technology companies share this view, but it’s also something consumers and merchants realize too. We’ve also been pleased to find out that banks and smartphone manufacturers have a genuine willingness to collaborate with FinTech companies to offer the best innovations to their customers.

Montreal The Wallrus taking social media to TV screens

The Wallrus is an online platform that allows Marketers, Event planners, Brand Managers, and social media managers to integrate beautiful Social media feeds and digital signage in any type of screens for events and permanent installations.

Wallrus is used in trade shows, hotels, national conventions, music festivals, political forums, Shopping mall, brand store and many more.

If you have screens, you should use Wallrus to manage them.

Since launching in January 2015, we have done over 16 000 events in over 74 Countries with brands such as L’Oreal, AT#T, Red Bull, Celine Dion, and many more.

Who started the company? Do you / team members have tech background?

We founded our first company in 2011, A Digital Agency Called Orangerine that is still operating and doing very well today. Wallrus was Launched In January 2015 by the same team. We are three founding partners and we have known each other for about 10 years now. We don’t have tech backgrounds, mostly film and advertising.

How are you being financed?

We were able to beta test our MVP with L’Oréal in many events all across Canada so we were revenue positive almost day one. We were also not really a sexy VC play as we had about 20-30 competitors. Fast forward 2 years, We are growing 20% month to month and our margins are very high , we might Geta capital injection from a strategic partner to help with our expansion into Outdoor signage and in the Chinese market. We will see.

How do you go about finding good developers / IT guys for your company?

We have a cool sticky brand ! We have a fun and enthusiastic team & Work environment ! We constantly delight our customers with dazzling customer service and we always deliver value for them. We also have free tickets to all the cool events !

Recruiting is never easy. But when you have a great product and a great team, it is easier to find like minded people.

Who is your biggest competition?

We still have about 10-12 competitors around down from the 20-30. Some US based, some in Europe or other markets. We know most of them. We do not really look at what they do. We are doing very well right now. We look forward, and toward our customers to make sure that everything we do delivers value for them.

How are you intending on taking your company to million dollars in revenues? In what markets?

We are rapidly expanding in the US working with Brands such as AT&T, BMW, Céline Dion, and many many more. We also launching a localized version of our software for the Chinese Market. We have done over 17 000 events since we launched in January 2015 and are slowly getting into more permanent digital signage installations and outdoor advertising.

What is the big lesson you’ve learned (success or failure) with this project.

It is a marathon not a sprint. And every time you finish you have to start over again. You have to keep a good balance because it is never over. And that is the fun of having your own company 🙂

LinkedIn:

Website: the-wallrus.com

Montreal SmartReno is changing the way homeowners search for contractors / raises $3m to date

SmartReno is changing the way homeowners search for contractors for their home improvement projects. The service allows people to describe their project in one place, then receive within 24 hours, and completely free of charge, several contractors who are best qualified and available to quote and execute their project. This matching is optimized through a real-time, multi-variable algorithm developed in-house, which identifies the best local contractors for a given project.

Following the acquisition of its main competitor last year, SmartReno expects to receive about 70,000 project requests in 2016, for an aggregate value of $300M. SmartReno maintains an exclusive network of about 5,000 contractors, in which only those who offer superior performance stay.

 

 

Who started the company? Do you / team members have tech background?

Andrei Uglar is the Founder & CEO, and launched the company in April 2012. Andrei has a finance background, and also launched and operated Weblocal.ca, the online local directory division of TC Media.

How are you being financed?

SmartReno is financed by Anges Quebec Capital as well as 4 prominent angel investors : Pierre Fleurent, Martin-Luc Archambault, Daniel Robichaud, Mike Cegelski. The company raised about $3m to date in 3 different rounds.

What do you think will be / is a big obstacle to overcome?

People are more and more getting the habit of using the Internet to find local services. We believe that there is still an education aspect to our service, but are seeing increasing number of people using the internet to find contractors, which typically is a old-school industry.

How do you go about finding good developers / IT guys for your company?

Word-of-mouth and making sure the company is growing and offers a great culture to attract talented developers that want to be an active part of creating the next big thing.

 

 

Who is your biggest competition?

The typical paper and online directories, but SmartReno offers a much better and simpler customer experience, by pre-filtering and making sure we only refer trusted and vetted contractors.

How are you intending on taking your company to million dollars in revenues? In what markets?

We are already doing much more than a million in revenues 😉 We have an aggressive plan to grow revenues and consolidate our existing position of leader in Canada in our segment.

What is the big lesson you’ve learned (success or failure) with this project.

Offering a simple and efficient user experience is the key. When people like their experience with the product and the service, they will come back and refer the service to their friends.

Website: www.smartreno.com

Ottawa Klipfolio, a provider of cloud business dashboards, raises $12 Million (Cdn)

Klipfolio, a provider of cloud business dashboards, today announced that it received $12 million (Cdn) in a Series B funding. This funding round was led by OMERS Ventures and included all the investors from Klipfolio’s 2015 Series A and 2014 seed rounds, bringing their total funding to date to $19.4 million.

Watch their Stop Reporting Like its 2001 for a brief intro:

Founded in 2001 as a bootstrapped provider of desktop dashboard widgets, Klipfolio has grown dramatically since re-launching as a cloud-based dashboard provider in 2011. Since receiving its first round of funding, the company’s customer base has doubled each year, now serving more than 7,000 customers globally. The company has a best-in-class net retention rate of rate of 100.3, and is delivering tens of thousands of real-time dashboards to customers.

“I’m proud of Klipfolio’s rapid growth, but more importantly, what that growth indicates – that businesses are embracing real-time monitoring. Businesses who monitor their performance in real-time, are more in control than those who rely on monthly or quarterly reports,” says Allan Wille, Klipfolio’s President and CEO. “This new funding will allow us to further invest in the product, make it easier to build dashboards for our customers, provide new mobile experiences, and deliver hundreds of pre-built visualizations and dashboards.”

In the past year, Klipfolio has achieved a number of important milestones:

  • The number of full-time Klipfolio employees has grown to 68 and the company expanded the Ottawa office footprint 1860 sf to accommodate that growth.
  • Klipfolio dashboards collectively refresh more than 2.6 billion times per year, reflecting their use in real time business operations.
  • Klipfolio customers access more than half a million different data sources and run more than 25 billion formula executions annually.
  • Klipfolio’s customers created more than 54,000 dashboards, with more than 36 million dashboard views in 2016.
  • More than 276K Klips were created to help customers track their metrics.