Calgary tech companies partner with city to launch projects aimed at startups, artificial intelligence

Click to play video 'Pair of local tech companies receive grants from Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund' Pair of local tech companies receive grants from Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund
Two Calgary companies — Harvest Builders and AltaML — will receive a combined $7.25 million to help 290 people launch tech startups and 240 people gain AI skills. Michael King reports – Jul 23, 2020

The Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF) — part of Calgary Economic Development — announced funding on Wednesday for the latest pair of programs aimed at attracting investment and innovation to the city.

Harvest Builders, a local company that helps people launch tech startups, will receive $4 million over three years.

Harvest plans to use the grant to help at least 290 Calgarians get tech ventures off the ground and grow existing companies.

Read more: Calgary robotic logistics company ATTAbotics Inc. gets $4.5M from city

Chris Simair, Harvest’s CEO and the former CEO of SkipTheDishes, said the grant will allow the company to grow its current base of clients.

“This investment will enable Harvest to expand our initial pilot and work with founders to co-build new companies that will continue to fuel the funnel of new innovation and technology here in Calgary,” Simair said.

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AltaML, a Calgary-based artificial intelligence company, will be getting $3.25 million over the next three years to launch a data science internship program in Calgary.

Two-hundred-forty people are expected to get experience solving real-world problems with AI.

Cory Janssen, the CEO of AltaML, said the grant could have long-term benefits for Calgary’s existing industries.

“Energy, agriculture and health care can all be using AI,” said Janssen.

“So we hope that the biggest effect [is increasing the] visibility between our traditional industries and the new, up-and-coming [industries]. Diversification does not mean we turn our backs on oil and gas; it means we actually need to embrace it and utilize these new enabling technologies within those spaces.”

Read more: Global tech giant Garmin officially calls Alberta home

Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who sits on the OCIF board of directors, said the programs will help Calgary grow as a tech hub.

“This investment will help grow the talent pipeline,” said Nenshi. “[It’s] necessary to address the increased demand for professionals in the artificial intelligence and machine learning space.”
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Companies that get grants from the OCIF also have to put their own money into the projects.

So far, the fund has kick-started 11 projects with a total of $30 million.