One of Canada’s three National AI Institutes in the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, Amii (the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute) is an Alberta-based non-profit institute that supports world-leading research in artificial intelligence and machine learning and translates scientific advancement into industry adoption.
Amii grows AI capabilities through advancing leading-edge research, delivering exceptional educational offerings and providing business advice – all with the goal of building in-house AI capabilities.
Tell us about yourself?
Throughout my career I have been driven by supporting the people around me and the community I live in.
I started working at the Government of Alberta where I worked in HR working with the Department of Energy, from there I moved into environmental policy and finally I led and managed a cross government policy course program and Internship program.
From the Government of Alberta I moved to Startup Edmonton where I was the Community Program Manager for 3 years.
At Startup Edmonton I fell in love with the startup community here in Edmonton and built a strong network within that community, and helping startup founders build and grow their companies has been driving me ever since!
Now that I have moved to the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) as the Product Owner Startups, I have been able to continue to empower Startup founders by building programs to directly support startups as they explore, build, and commercialize machine learning technologies.
I have also been able to grow the number of startups I can work with because Amii engages startups from across Alberta, Canada, and beyond which has been very rewarding.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Start learning about machine learning! I would encourage my past self to learn more about machine learning by reading books like Prediction Machines or by taking courses like Amii’s ML Foundations.
What problem does your business solve?
Amii helps businesses accelerate and de-risk the process of growing their in-house AI capabilities.
Working with businesses of all sizes, including startups, SMEs and multinationals, we work as a trusted advisor to companies looking to grow their competitive advantage using AI and machine learning.
We offer a range of products that help connect businesses with top talent, upskill workers for AI-enabled careers, accelerate corporate research and development and help companies of all sizes grow their in-house capacity to embark on AI projects.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
Through our work with startups, we realized that while there are lots of help that is focused on the business side of the startup development process, there was a gap in the market for technical supports and specifically for the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning technology.
So we decided to use our expertise in these areas to step in and fill that gap.
We have built programs to guide and mentor startups as they explore, build, and commercialize machine learning (ML) technologies.
We do this by assisting startups take their first steps towards ML development in our ML Exploration program, by supporting ML focused startups through our CTO coaching program – Level Up, and we are building out new products that encourage the development and creation of new ML focused startups.
What is your magic sauce?
We are obsessed with moving at the same speed as tech startups and filling the gaps in AI support that exist as startups begin to rapidly scale as they get market traction or investment.
To meet the needs of startup founders, our team focuses on creating peer networks, just-in-time coaching, and reducing the delivery time through an accountability and homework model for our programming.
Additionally, as a not for profit organization we exist to support our clients in their AI adoption goals and always have their best interests at heart.
Because of that we always ensure that all intellectual property that is created or co-created through our engagements with clients remains the property of the client, and we never take equity in our clients.
This ensures that we are able to support our clients while not diluting their equity or IP.
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
My vision for the next 5 years is to exponentially grow the number of startups we support throughout programming. I want to enable startups from all industries across the globe in their development of machine learning technologies and have multiple Amii startups become unicorns.
I am also passionate about supporting the development of new startups and am very excited to grow that type of programming and other products for the amazing network of machine learning students and researchers right here in Alberta.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
A few years ago, Amii offered some startup programming that we thought was a good fit but that didn’t have much pick-up in the market. After some feedback from our clients and with new direction from our leadership, we realized we needed to shift our approach.
Once I joined the team, we began to approach the development of our startup-focused products here at Amii in the same way we would have if we were starting a startup.
We began with extensive customer discovery to determine what the needs of the startups in our community were and what roadblocks were stopping them, or had stopped them, from adopting machine learning technologies.
We then took all that information and developed a series of MVP programs to test our assumptions with real startups.
This process allowed us to be nimble in the development of our new programming and rapidly iterate in that product development. We were able to quickly make changes to our products, add new features, remove features, and ensure that our final products are able to effectively meet the needs of startups.
How do people get involved/buy into your vision?
We are currently recruiting for Level Up, our CTO coaching program and peer network, which helps technology leaders in startups make better machine learning decisions faster.
Level Up is a one-year, Amii-sponsored membership program and network.
It is intended for startups that have ML as a core technological piece of their products and want to scale their ML capabilities.
For more info and to apply, visit https://www.amii.ca/your-business/startups/level-up/