In the early days of launching their big data startup Meta, siblings Sam and Amy Molyneux were working with a team out in Siberia to develop the first version of the platform, which scans over 25 million biomedical papers dating back to the 1800s and provides research relevant to users in real-time using machine learning. With a deadline looming overhead, the pair had to make a tough decision to send Amy to Siberia despite the fact they didn’t have funds to get her home.
“I promised that I would get it done and Sam promised he would figure out a way to find the money to fly me home,” says Amy. “You can't make decisions like that if you don't trust the other person.” Trust has been a pillar of Meta, which the pair founded in 2010.
“Everyone asks if it is difficult to work together as siblings and I think it's actually why we've been able to do this,” says Amy. “It requires an incredible amount of trust to take a leap together and we're lucky in the fact that our skills are very complimentary.”
Prior to launching Meta, Amy had worked as a special effects makeup artist in the film and television industry. She pivoted to retail services where she noticed a pattern in the questions customers asked and realized there was a technical solution in there somewhere. She quit her job, taught herself to code and launched Painted Face, a suite of tutorials and technical services. Sam was studying cancer genomics at the Ontario Cancer Institute at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital.
“So I had been using machine learning and technologies like that to identify genes that cause cancer,” he says. “Amy was doing stuff with software and web engineering and directing large teams of engineers to build large-scale products and we saw this opportunity to bring together artificial intelligence and the Internet to organize all the information that's contained within scientific articles.”
Today the company has 32 employees with plans to expand over the next year and a half.
“We work with most of the world's scientific publishers and we help them organize their content and make the information inside their content discoverable for scientists throughout the world and researchers in a wide variety of markets,” says Sam.
And Toronto is home for this growing content curating company.
“We've benefited greatly from the world leading AI labs here in Toronto at the University of Toronto and a variety of other institutions,” he says. “Our company is composed of some of the strongest talent in the country – it's been absolutely incredible.”
Meta participated in Highline's accelerator program, raised $3 million USD in seed funding in January 2014 and $4.5 million USD in Series A funding lead by Rho Canada Ventures in November last year. In addition to tapping into the city’s drove of engineering and product development talent, the company hopes to draw from the multicultural assets as it branches out into different languages.
“We just continue to reap the benefits of being here from both a talent and passion perspective,” says Sam. “(And) we were both born and raised here, it’s our hometown.”