Ottawa tech firms to watch 2018: Talent top of MindBridge AI’s concerns amid rapid growth year

Eli
MindBridge AI CEO Eli Fathi. File photo.

Every year, Techopia names a new crop of tech firms to watch. Before we unveil our picks for 2019, we’re looking back on how our four companies fared in 2018.

A tight Ottawa talent market couldn’t hold MindBridge AI back from doubling in size over the course of 2018.

The local firm, which develops artificial intelligence software for auditors, surpassed 60 employees last year. Chief executive Eli Fathi told Techopia in a recent interview that competing for hires in the Ottawa market was the company’s biggest obstacle to growth in 2018.

“Talent acquisition was really challenging during the year,” he says, adding that MindBridge has turned to an external recruitment firm as of late to aid in its employee search.

Helping to fund all of the new hires was an $8.4 million series-A round raised in May, bringing the company’s total venture capital haul to more than $12 million to date. Fathi tells Techopia that in order to continue its growth, MindBridge will be looking to raise more VC in 2019.

AI recognition

The artificial intelligence firm’s software detects anomalies in companies’ books and alerts auditors to these discrepancies – sometimes evidence of fraud. More than 230 customers in seven countries are now using MindBridge’s AI auditor tool – nearly twice the business the company had this time last year.

Sales aside, the company earned its fair share of industry acclaim in 2018. The Ottawa-based Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance gave MindBridge its outstanding product achievement award, Accounting Today said its AI auditor was the top new product of 2018 and Fathi himself was named AI Leader of the Year at the Canadian FinTech & AI Awards.

This past fall also marked the first documented case of MindBridge’s AI auditor detecting an incident of fraud. Fathi says milestones like these come around very rarely, as large financial institutions are often reticent to publicly discuss their internal insecurities. In this instance, a third-party accounting firm caught and documented the instance.

“The issue in fraud is people don't want to document it,” he says. “So this was really a very important case where people were willing to speak about it.”

Making an Impact

In an effort to raise the artificial intelligence profiles of Ottawa and Canada at-large, MindBridge also launched its Impact AI conference this year. More than 500 people attended the conference, which included speakers from Amazon, Microsoft and the federal government.

Rather than use the conference as a pedestal to raise MindBridge’s own status in the industry, Fathi says Impact was presented as an independent, “competition-agnostic” forum where all AI players could gather to discuss best practices.

The conference was a roaring success, he says, adding MindBridge intends to continue putting on the conference annually, but “bigger and better every year.”