15 startups from the inaugural NextAI program,  which is devoted to the commercialization of artificial intelligence, showcased their ventures at the first annual NextAI Venture Day. Over 200 investors, mentors, donors and partners came together at The Globe and Mail Centre to hear the participants of NextAI pitch their businesses, with  Intuitive Inc named top venture. Intuitive Inc was awarded free submission into the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, as well as $5,000 in API credits on the Clarifai platform. The companies were assessed by a panel of technology experts including television host Amber Mac, Angela Tran Kingyens, Partner at Version One Ventures, Brett H. Meyer, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at McGill University, and Matthew Zeiler, Founder and CEO of Clarifai.

“When we launched NextAI, it was to fill a gap in the Canadian AI ecosystem. In Canada, we have been experts at research and education, but these 15 companies are working to actually commercialize AI and build successful businesses,” said Anthony Lacavera, co-chair of NEXT Canada and chair of Globalive Capital. “We’re excited to graduate our first cohort from the program today. Over the last eight months these entrepreneurs have worked with top industry experts and educators to build their businesses, and they’re committed to changing the way everyday Canadians interact with technology.”

In addition to Intuitive Inc taking home Top Venture, two other prizes were awarded at Venture Day to recognize the entrepreneurs’ progress over the course of the program, including the People’s Choice Global Impact Award, which was awarded to  Deepnify, who also won free submission into the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, as well as $5,000 in API credits on the Clarifai platform; and Valedictorian, which was awarded to Saroop Bharwani, Co-founder of Senso AI.

NextAI, which ran from February to September, is one of three programs delivered by NEXT Canada and was launched in January 2017 with $5.5 million in funding from partners including BDC Capital, Magna, RBC and Scotiabank. NextAI is also supported by NEXT Canada’s national partners EY, ​​Osler ​​Harcourt ​​& Hoskin ​​LLP, ​​and ​​Power ​​Corporation ​​of ​​Canada. The program provides access to technology platforms and AI experts from companies including Google, IBM Canada and NVIDIA. Teams received up to $200,000 in seed financing to develop their technology, as well as hands-on instruction from faculty at the University of Toronto, McGill University, Georgetown University, University of Guelph, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, and Harvard University.

“NextAI has given us the opportunity to turn our idea into a business with huge potential for growth,” said Krista Caldwell, co-founder of Deepnify and winner of People’s Choice Global Impact Award. “This program is unique in that it focuses on bringing our ideas to market, and through the access to technology, funding and mentorship, our company has made huge progress. We're grateful to NextAI and NEXT Canada for launching Deepnify and helping make AI more accessible to Canadians.”

This is NEXT Canada’s third program devoted to increasing Canadian prosperity by making a targeted investment in the development of young entrepreneurs. To date, over 300 entrepreneurs have participated in the Next 36 and Next Founders programs. NEXT Canada counts the founders of several AI and machine learning companies among its alumni, including Blue J LegalAtomwise and Deep Learni.ng.

Applications for 2018 cohort of NextAI opened today. You can learn more about the program and apply here: www.nextai.com

To learn more about NEXT Canada, visit www.nextcanada.com.