After several years in the U.S., a Calgary-born company in artificial intelligence is coming home as it transitions from being a startup to scaling its operations.
Ambyint, an oil well optimization software company that uses deep-learning artificial intelligence, announced Monday it was relocating its headquarters from Delaware to Calgary.
“The tech ecosystem in Calgary is alive and well. From an innovation, talent and an investment perspective, it made absolute sense for our scaling business to return,” Benjamin Kemp, CEO of Ambyint, said in an interview.
And a new round of financing has the company aiming to more than triple in size, taking it from start-up status to being an established player. (The company won’t say how many jobs it will bring to Alberta; it had almost 40 employees as of March.)
Ambyint’s AI software is used by several major oil and gas companies to help with daily activities managing and optimizing production. Its technology also helps companies reduce their carbon footprint from production by as much as 48 per cent, according to a case study on its website.
“If you want to put us in a bucket, you would put us in deep-learning AI,” he said.
There are few direct competitors in Ambyint’s space, said Yasmine Al-Hussein, an associate for Accelerate Fund III, one of the key investors in the company’s latest capital round. The $23-million fund provides financing to Alberta-based startups.
“Status quo is always the number-one competitor,” said Al-Hussein, who led Accelerate Fund’s investment in Ambyint. Controllers or back-end engineers are traditionally the workers monitoring oil wells, she said — a job Ambyint’s AI replaces with its deep-learning technology.
The company doesn’t publicly disclose its clients, but Kemp said it works with some of Canada’s largest onshore producers.
The company’s return to Calgary is a vote of confidence for Alberta’s tech scene, he said. There’s been a “shift in sentiment” from Canadian venture capital investors, he added, whereas U.S. investors were previously more bullish on oil-and-gas software.
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Ambyint’s decision to leave Canada three years ago was driven by the higher level of attention U.S. investors were giving to companies like it, he said. He also said Alberta’s improving talent pool makes it an appealing place to set up shop.
“Us being back as part of that equation, I think, is a really solid commitment from our end, but also speaks volumes to where Alberta is going from a tech-hub perspective,” Kemp said.
Increased access to grants and non-dilutive funding — capital a business owner receives that doesn’t require giving up equity or ownership — is also making Canada more appealing for owners looking to start businesses in Alberta, Al-Hussein said.
The company’s latest capital round added the Business Development Bank of Canada and Accelerate Fund III to its list of investors. The financing was led by Mercury Investment Group and Montrose Lane.
Al-Hussein said Accelerator Fund was encouraged by Ambyint’s growth over the past three years and “how they are scaling pretty quickly throughout the North American market.”
Kemp said this new round of funding “really validates that we’re through the nerve-wracking period of being a startup company.”
He hopes Ambyint’s growth in 2024 will put it on Deloitte’s annual companies-to-watch ranking, which looks at companies’ revenue growth percentage over the last three years of operation.
Calgary-based companies Neo Financial, PurposeMed and Falkbuilt filled three of the top four slots in the 2023 rankings, released last Wednesday. (Neo Financial has posted 81,732 per cent revenue growth over the past three years, according to Deloitte.)