Canadian AI firm lands largest-ever 'Series A' funding for sector
Canada’s fast-growing artificial intelligence industry has received another shot in the arm. Element AI, a Montreal-based startup, has raised $137.5 million in what Element is calling the “largest Series A funding round for an artificial intelligence company in history.”
Element has previously described itself as an artificial intelligence startup incubator, with the company hoping to build AI businesses from research being done at leading Canadian schools, including the Université de Montréal, where Element Co-Founder Yoshua Bengio teaches.
“We have this lead and we have built a huge group here in Montreal that’s now attracting industry, startups, new companies like Element AI — it’s amazing how much things are moving and how much energy there is,” Bengio told BNN in a recent television interview from the C2 tech conference in Montreal.
Element plans to use some of the funds to invest in major AI projects around the world. It also says it will be “creating 250 jobs in the Canadian high tech sector by January 2018.”
The funding round was led by Venture Capital firm Data Collective, which, according to research firm CB Insights, has been one of the most active investors in the past five years. Data Collective has backed at least 20 AI startups since 2012.
Given the size of the funding, the investor group includes a long list of high-profile names from the worlds of finance and tech, including Fidelity Investments Canada, Intel Capital, National Bank of Canada, NVIDIA, Real Ventures and Microsoft Ventures, which previously invested in the company.
“Intel, Microsoft, and NVIDIA, as pioneers and champions of AI hardware and software, likewise understand that their businesses flourish as every company is empowered with world-class AI. This is why these leaders have backed us with the world’s largest Series A round ever for an artificial intelligence company,” Element AI CEO Jean-François Gagné said in a statement.