Poka and Dott bring home the hardware from G20 Innovation League Awards

Three McRock portfolio companies made the cut for this inaugural startup pitch competition

Getting to travel after almost two years of working from home was a treat in itself. Getting to attend the G20 Innovation League in Italy was the icing on the cake. It was the inaugural year of the startup competition to solve some of the biggest challenges facing humankind. Navigating the mobile rapid COVID screening in an ambulance in the centre piazza of Sorrento was the price of admission. Totally worth it.

Three McRock portfolio companies participated in the startup pitch competition challenges. Two Canadian companies, Poka and Miovision, were nominated by a selection committee of five participating Canadian VCs. Amsterdam-based Dott was also nominated by another country’s VC selection committee.
The event had more than 250 VCs, corporate organizations and startups attend in person and many more attended virtually. It was the first time the G20 Innovation League was hosted as part of the broader G20.

Quebec City-based Poka won the entire IoT and Wearables category following an impressive pitch by Co-founder and CEO Alex Leclerc. Poka is a leading connected-worker platform driving manufacturing excellence. What an achievement!

Miovision’s CEO, Kurtis McBride, presented a compelling case about how managing traffic using AI and IoT makes cities more enjoyable and less congested with reduced emissions. Miovision is experiencing tremendous growth as its products have now processed more than 23 million hours of video and 9 billion vehicles. Miovision serves more than 17,000 municipalities worldwide. The company is proudly headquartered in Kitchener, Ontario and has 300+ employees.

Henri Moissinac, Dott’s CEO, also delivered a convincing virtual pitch that earned the innovator second place in the Smart Cities challenge. The company is helping to create cleaner and greener cities by offering eco-friendly micro-mobility with e-scooters and e-bikes. We are thrilled for them to get this recognition.

The G20 Innovation League also provides a huge opportunity for us at McRock. It reminds us of the importance of our investment thesis and the role that all of our portfolio companies are playing to solve some significant global challenges with digital technologies and AI. What a tremendous validation of our vision.

The next few years are going to be an exciting ride as we all find our way through the pandemic. I just warn you that while swab tests and a sore nose will remain a constant in the short term, it’s a small price to pay to get back in circulation again.

Landing AI

Think AI is an exclusive club for tech giants and digital start-ups?

McRock’s latest investment—Andrew Ng’s Landing AI—will launch a new era of easy-to-use AI for even the smallest datasets

We often equate AI with tech giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook–behemoths of the digital consumer landscape. So when new technologies emerge that have the potential to send ripples through to all corners of the industrial world, we get pretty excited. Such is the case with McRock’s latest investment.

“Excited” might actually be an understatement. We led the $57 million Series A financing of Landing AI. We look at investment opportunities from tech companies all the time. But they don’t often have the potential to bring real change to so many businesses. Landing AI and its product LandingLens™ are poised to drastically change how traditional industries view and use AI technology.

Why the confidence? Because the brainchild behind the start-up is Andrew Ng.

The OG, the Grand Poobah, the King of AI

If you know anything about AI, you’ve likely heard of Andrew Ng. Here are just a few highlights from his very long list of accomplishments:

  • Founding lead of the Google Brain team
  • Former chief scientist at Baidu
  • Chairman and Co-Founder of Coursera–the world’s largest MOOC platform
  • Founder of DeepLearning.AI
  • Adjunct Professor at Stanford University

The man is a pioneer both in machine learning and online education. He has literally changed countless lives through his work in AI, authoring or co-authoring more than 100 research papers in machine learning, robotics, and related fields. He now focuses his time looking for the best ways to accelerate responsible AI practices in the larger global economy.

A new era is dawning. One where traditional sectors such as manufacturing, healthcare and agriculture, can reap the benefits of their data to optimize operations and generate significant business value. Their caution in embracing AI in the past is understandable. Adopting that kind of technology meant wholesale staffing changes. And many often assumed they just didn’t have datasets large enough to provide any meaningful insight to their operations. That’s no longer the case on either front.

Don’t rush out to hire AI specialists

The technology behind Landing AI’s tool doesn’t require wholesale team changes; instead, it empowers a business’s existing workforce to grow its capabilities. The fast and easy-to-use platform enables domain experts, rather than AI experts, to build cutting edge AI and create business value. How? Here’s one example: rather than needing to write pages of code to train a neural network, a domain expert can do it with a few mouse clicks. This no code/low code data-centric platform enables new users to build advanced AI models in less than a day. Vision inspection projects that used to take more than a year can be executed in just weeks using the new LandingLens technology.

Big data not required

Landing AI is leading the wave of data-centric AI technology; driving the shift from “big data” to “good data.” It’s an important distinction. This next era of AI will come from meeting companies where they are: striving to improve with often limited datasets. Good data, no matter how small the set, can offer critical insights into their operations. LandingLens is the platform that delivers the process, human connections, team integration, data-centric approach and guidance on how to use and grow smaller sets of data that lead to meaningful business transformation.

The McRock team sees its fair share of pitches. We are one of the world’s leading VC funds in industrial AI so they come in all forms. Choosing to invest in Andrew and Landing AI was as close to a no-brainer as we get in this field. We also brought Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments) into the funding round with us as a co-investor. Together the two firms represent a significant proportion of the growth capital invested in this financing round. Other investors in Landing AI include Insight Partners, Taiwania, Intel, Samsung, DRIVE Catalyst, Walsin and AI Fund. As part of the financing, McRock Co-founder and Managing Partner Scott MacDonald has joined the Landing AI Board of Directors.

Giddy? Delighted? Thrilled? Ecstatic?

Did we find a better word than “excited” yet? How would you describe a scenario in which you find the ideal investment opportunity that perfectly aligns with your vision? McRock partners with relentless entrepreneurs who bring transformative digital technologies to industrial markets. We are the first VC firm to focus exclusively on Industrial IoT. Other AI-powered portfolio companies include ThoughtTrace and samdesk, and we previously financed mnubo which was later acquired by AspenTech. Andrew and Landing AI will be a welcome addition to this club.