Toronto-based AI technology startup Invision AI plans to establish its first overseas office in Taiwan after picking the island for its wealth of camera sensor manufacturers.
The firm’s chief marketing officer Séamus Hatch spoke with Business Next during the 2018 Computex Taipei trade show earlier this month. He had come to the show, Asia’s largest of its type, to display the company’s technologies at the booth curated by Taiwan-based Epoch Foundation’s incubation initiative Garage+ Startup Global Program.
Business Next chose this firm from the triple-digit total that attended Computex on the recommendation of Taipei-based incubator Garage+.
The following Q&A explains what Invision AI plans to do:
Q: What is Invision AI? What are your goals?
A: Invision AI is an AI startup founded in the beginning of last year. Our core technologies in artificial intelligence, machine learning, people recognition, face recognition, object tracking and data analysis have been developed for about six years. One of the main applications we’re looking at right now is video analytics.
We’re developing a system that can be trained in the cloud by ingesting video where objects and activities of interest have been annotated. In the course of last year, we developed relationships with some major companies building out these solutions.
Q: Why are you here at Computex? What are some of the opportunities that you’re looking for?
A: The reason we’ve been very interested in coming to Taiwan is that many of the people making the sensors, including the camera sensors, the video sensors, are Taiwanese companies. So, I think our next office outside of Canada is probably going to be in Taiwan. Our whole focus is making millions and millions of devices smart.
We don’t want to just make a few devices smart for a very high price. We realized that if we want to make these millions of devices, we would have to work with Taiwanese companies so that we can design it and manufacture it.
Through the Garage+ Startup Global program, we’ve been introduced to Quanta Computer, (power supply maker) Delta Electronics and many other key players in Taiwan’s ICT industry. The chances are we’re going to be working closely with all of the companies we met as OEM/ODM contractors.
I think if it goes well with the companies that we’re talking with, we’d like to have people in Taipei so that we have support on the ground floor.
Q: How much money have you raised so far?
A: We raised a small amount of money when we first set the company up. The funds came from big companies in India, which our business contacts introduced to us. We’re waiting now until the end of this trip. We’ve got a number of different projects and now we’re going to look at a much larger funding this year.
Q: Many software companies are working on AI as well, and they compete to hire top engineering talent. Do you think you have an advantage in recruiting?
A: I’d say we’ve been very lucky with talents. Right now, we have 10 people on the team. We have two groups of people. We have a core group of people who are Ph.D., post-doctorate fellows, artificial intelligence experts who are designing the core algorithms. And then we have another group of people who are embedded programmers, writing C++ embedded real-time applications.
Our access to talents has been very good. I think cities in Canada are becoming a magnet for top international product and engineering talent. Also, (in Canada) we have University of Montréal, University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, and those three universities have very strong computer science departments.
Q: What’s next for Invision AI?
A: Our products are still underdevelopment, so we’ll continue our work in product development. For our technologies in people recognition and face recognition, we want to make those available at a very low cost to the camera manufacturers.
The idea is that they will be able to put it on every device they ship. We’re seeing a lot of potential in Asia. We think there’s a lot of opportunities in mainland China, in terms of video surveillance, securities, and smart cities. And we’re excited that Taiwan is going to be an important business partner to take our business to the next level.