Artificial-intelligence companies dominate 2019 C100 48Hrs in the Valley cohort

NBA star Steph Curry is an investor in SnapTravel, one of the companies selected for the 2019 C100 48Hrs in the Valley cohort. Photo courtesy David Spowart/Lost Forest Media/SnapTravel

C100, a non-profit that connects the Canadian and Silicon Valley startup ecosystems, has accepted 27 companies into the the 2019 cohort of its 48Hrs in the Valley program.

The competitive annual program, which is referral-only, pairs Canadian companies with a mentor, then brings them to Silicon Valley for two days of meetings with investors and executives. This year’s cohort will run from May 7 to 9. It includes eight firms from Toronto; five from Montreal and one from Laval, Que.; six from Vancouver; two apiece from Calgary and Ottawa; and one each from Halifax, Kitchener, Ont. and Waterloo.

The program has been running since 2010. So far, over 250 companies have participated, many of which have gone on to raise money soon after their Silicon Valley visits. Alumni from the July 2018 cohort include Toronto-based logo-creation platform Logojoy, which raised $6 million four months after participating in the program, and Calgary-based ZayZoon, which lets employees get paid wages earlier than payday, and closed a $15-million round on Monday.

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On the first day, companies learn about fundraising tactics and pitch to VCs, while the program’s second day includes keynote presentations from growth-stage founders on topics like finding talent.

For the 2018 cohort, Mike Dinsdale, former CFO of DocuSign and current CFO of Gusto, spoke about challenges a CFO can expect to face while scaling. Michelle Zatlyn, co-founder and COO of Cloudflare, talked about building her company, which was valued at US$3.2 billion in November 2017.

The May 2019 cohort includes 27 late-seed and pre-Series A companies spanning across a range of industries including healthcare, real estate and construction. Just over half—14 companies—use artificial intelligence or leverage client data to provide personalized analytics. Delphia, a Toronto-based AI company was accepted to the program but has since decided not to go. According to data from Element AI, Canada has the third most researchers in the world, and the country has spent the last several years becoming a foundation for AI research and commercialization by establishing research centres like the Toronto’s Vector Institute and the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms.

Talking Point

Fourteen of the 27 companies in C100’s 48 Hrs in the Valley cohort use artificial intelligence or leverage client data to provide personalized analytics. Many past participants have gone on to raise money soon after their Silicon Valley visits.

Among the startups in the cohort are RenoRun, Properly, Keela and Tacit Innovations, which are in the lucrative markets of ordering construction materials, selling houses, managing finances for non-profits and facilitating payments for restaurants, respectively. Meanwhile, Smooch, Fellow and Unito are working to centralize communication between customers and staff by integrating several communication- and project-management tools into one platform.

Some of the startups have seen early success. Toronto-based SnapTravel, which lets people book hotels through a chatbot, raised $28 million in 2018 from NBA player Stephen Curry. Drug development platform InVivo AI and video creation platform Lumen5 both took home $200,000 from Montreal’s Fundica pitch competition in July 2018; InVivo AI also won the top Startupfest prize of $100,000 just two days before.

Previous cohorts got access following the program to office space provided by C100 at their Canada House location. However, the organization has since moved offices and no longer has office space set aside for 48 Hrs alumni.

Some alumni told The Logic that the program’s focus on networking has translated into fundraising opportunities. ApplyBoard CEO Martin Basiri—whose company helps international students apply to post-secondary schools in North America—went through the program in 2017. He praised the benefits of meeting other Canadian entrepreneurs and undergoing pitching and fundraising workshops. Basiri was matched with his mentor Manoj Verma, co-founder and chief revenue officer of TabaPay. Verma introduced him to Artiman Ventures, which led ApplyBoard’s $17-million Series A in June 2018. That investment helped the company scale to its current headcount of over 160 employees.

“Being a part of this program means being connected with investors who are genuinely interested in your vision and who take you seriously,” said Basiri.

Yashar Nejati—CEO of Uppercase, which raised $4.75 million in September 2018—also went through the program in 2017. While he initially thought the main benefit would be meeting investors, he said getting advice from fellow founders he met on the trip has been helpful in building his business. Nejati said he still keeps in touch with one of the co-founders of Mejuri, a jewelry startup that raised $5 million in September 2018, and the team at Plooto, which offers a payments system for businesses.

“Whenever you’re at some inflection point, founders are good to talk to. The entrepreneurial journey is lonely, so having other founders that are going through the same thing is helpful, because it’s not your employees or co-founders or investors,” said Nejati.

Founders must be nominated for the program by either an alumnus, a corporate partner like CIBC or one of C100’s charter members (of which include Catherine Courage, Google’s VP of ads and commerce, user experience; and J. Kim Fennell, Uber’s head of product partnerships and U.S./Canada business development ). The cohort is determined by the program’s selection committee, which includes charter members and corporate partners. Companies pay for flights and accommodation, but C100 covers the costs of the program itself.

C100 curates programming for each cohort based on several calls with participants. “We put it to them to say who [they] want to learn from, What [they] are most curious about and afraid to ask,” said Laura Buhler, executive director of C100. “We go out and try to build a program around that, because every cohort is a little bit different. There’s so much emphasis on the event, but it’s really about the community we’re cultivating for the founders.”

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C100 runs other programs dedicated to helping founders connect and get advice from more experienced CEOs. In 2017, it hosted its first Growth Summit, a conference for helping companies learn how to find talent. Buhler said the summit was a response to the growing number of Canadian companies identifying talent as their biggest challenge—a shift from funding, which Buhler said was top of the list when C100 started its 48 Hrs programming.

The full list of startups is below:

Applied Brain Research
City: Waterloo
Product: Creates products based on neural networks and artificial intelligence for computers.

City: Vancouver
Product: Offers organic pads, tampons and skincare products.

City: Toronto
Product: Users answer personal questions on topics like spending habits, which are then anonymized and packaged into a prediction which is sold to companies including financial institutions. Delphia pays users for the data after it gets paid from clients.

City: Ottawa
Product: Uses data from employees’ tools like calendars to automate to-do lists, feedback and goal-tracking within Slack.

City: Ottawa
Product: Offers free digital marketing courses for students preparing for an apprenticeship. Businesses pay a $49 monthly fee to access a pool of student talent.

City: Halifax
Product: A platform for construction companies to manage project scheduling and vendor delivery.

InVivo AI
City: Montreal
Product: Aggregates data from private and public sources to identify toxic and non-toxic small molecule drugs for the pharmaceutical industry.

Ionomr Innovations
City: Vancouver
Product: Designs and manufactures polymers for chemical manufacturing, batteries and water treatment.

City: Vancouver
Product: Helps non-profits conduct better email-marketing campaigns and manage communication with donors.

City: Vancouver
Product: Takes written content input by users and creates a video with relevant imagery and music using AI.

City: Calgary
Product: Technology to help neurologists make better recommendations for patients suffering from neurological diseases.

Nicoya Lifesciences
City: Kitchener
Product: Uses nanotechnology to detect interactions between proteins, antibodies, DNA, RNA, peptides and polymers.

City: Laval, Que.
Product: Builds autonomous robots for industrial settings like factories.

OnCall Health
City: Toronto
Product: Allows users to talk to healthcare providers via video conferencing on its mobile app.

Phenomic AI
City: Toronto
Product: Computer vision technology to help researchers better analyze microscopy data, leading to faster drug discovery.

City: Calgary
Product: Purchases properties in cash from home-sellers, then resells on their behalf for a fee.

Passenger AI
City: Toronto
Product: Remote monitoring tools for self-driving taxis.

City: Montreal
Product: Promises material delivery for construction company in under two hours.

City: Vancouver
Product: Matches job seekers with employers based on standardized skills.

Smooch Technologies
City: Montreal
Product: Connects all of a company’s messaging platforms—such as Facebook Messenger and Twitter—into one centralized platform to better manage communication.

City: Toronto
Product: Allows users to access hotel discounts through a chatbot.

City: Montreal
Product: Allows event management companies to include a map of accommodation surrounding their event, giving customers a view of what Airbnbs and hotels are available.

City: Calgary
Product: Provides a platform for live-audience businesses, like major and minor sports leagues, which allows them to collect and analyze data to improve sales and marketing decisions.

Tacit Innovations
City: Toronto
Product: Allows diners to browse restaurant menus and pay for food orders through their phones, and offers ordering kiosks that hotel chains and stadiums can use to shorten lineups.

City: Montreal
Product: Centralizes product management tools like Trello and GitHub into one platform.

City: Toronto
Product: Storage devices that regulate temperature, protecting a medicine’s shelf life and preventing decay during transportation.

City: Toronto
Product: Helps companies without coding knowledge develop Google Home and Alexa apps based on its drag-and-drop platform.


Correction: A previous version of this article said alumni of the 48 Hrs program could use office space at Canada House when visiting Silicon Valley. No such space is available. This piece has also been updated to reflect that Toronto-based AI company Delphia has decided not to participate in this year’s cohort.