- Assistance and advice from researchers and academics are key to helping startups flesh out an idea and innovate.
- Partnerships between big enterprises and startups are mutually beneficial, with the startup providing solutions to problems in enterprise, and enterprise serving as a client.
- Funding is key for startups to grow and access to funding needs to be further improved.
The government can help facilitate partnerships between startups and big enterprises through the implementation of new programs, which will help startups to scale up successfully.
What does Airudi do?
Airudi is a human resources (HR) tech company. We help organizations optimize their HR process by using artificial intelligence (AI) to make good decisions in the workplace, to make sure their people will reach their full potential and that the organization will have more value and create value.
How does that work with an AI application?
It is a statistical analysis system (SAS) platform where the user can integrate their data into the application. For example, if I have a health and safety issue, how do I manage it? Our application uses an AI named PAM, which is virtual assistant powered. It can give you advice on how to manage your health and safety cases based on the law and best practices.
It sounds like it is a virtual HR assistant.
Yes, but it is not only a virtual assistant system because we can provide a dashboard, data, and other information that can help organizations to make better decisions in HR.
What has been your experience founding an AI startup in Canada and bringing it to scale?
Two years ago, I was having coffee with my Co-Founder, Amanda Arciero, and we were wondering why we wake up every day and do what we are passionate about, and what we are passionate about is HR. How can we help people to reach their full potential and create more value in their organization? We arrived at the conclusion that a lot of time is wasted in doing transactional tasks instead of focusing on the DNA of HR. The DNA of human resources is to focus on people in an organization in order to create value for the organization, and we do not do that enough. Our passion brought us to this question: what can we do to reinvent the way that people manage HR? We decided that we have to build something that can make a difference for organizations, which was the first step that led us to build Airudi. As co-founders, we both have a deep knowledge of HR and how we can have and put in place a people management plan and strategy. The next challenge was the fact that we had knowledge of HR but we did not have technical knowledge, and so we had to find and build a technological team to help us achieve our vision and dream.
The second step was to sit down with researchers in Polytechnique Montréal and to speak with Institut de Valorisation des Données (IVADO). We had discussions with them and convinced them to join the team and help us build the technical team. This is the story of Airudi.
“The DNA of human resources is to focus on people in an organization in order to create value for the organization.”
What main challenges do Canadian companies entering the scale-up phase need support with?
One of the big challenges that AI companies face, particularly when they start, is accessing funding. If you do not have money or funds, it is very difficult to go to the next step. The second thing is if you do not have strong people around you, you can raise funds and go anywhere you want to go, but it will be difficult to achieve your goals. It is vital to have funding and strong people around you such as mentors to help you build a strong team.
What is your experience with commercialization and what can be done to improve it?
The tech market is very tough and so startups have to go step-by-step. At Airudi, what we do is a pilot product, and so when we make the pilot product for our clients, we build a strong relationship with them at the same time. This is the first step that can help startups reach markets and commercialize their product. The government can help startups by putting in place a program that encourages big enterprises to work together with startups. In Airudi, we do that, and it is a middle-ground approach that we put in place. The middle-ground approach is when big companies and startups work together to realize and put in place a product that they could use for today and the future.
“The government can help startups by putting in place a program that encourages big enterprises to work together with startups.”
This is a way for startups to work with big companies to reach the market and have proof of concept. After that, it will be much easier. When you innovate, you also have to educate your customer at the same time. You have to convince them that the product’s use will create value in their operations. It is more difficult for startups to reach the market when the product is ready. Do not wait for a product to be 100% ready for market. That is a mistake that many startups make because they want to make sure the product is perfect and 100% before going to market. At Airudi, that was not our approach. What we did was a pilot project first, and only after that does the customer acquire the product we are selling now.
“When you innovate, you also have to educate your customer at the same time. You have to convince them that the product’s use will create value in their operations.”
You have to represent yourself in the future. When we started Airudi, one of our advisors told us to go and get a market wherever it exists; do not only stay in Canada. Go everywhere that you think you can find business. If you see yourself becoming a big company in the coming years, you have to think globally from day one. This is what we did. We are now in France and we are working hard to be in Rio de Janeiro in the coming year. We are also talking with customers in the USA. It is very important to make sure that you have a projection for the future.
What and who would you pitch in 30 seconds about improving the ability of Canadian companies to scale better and faster?
I would speak with industry players because they can help a startup to grow and scale by having partnerships with them. By believing and trusting in entrepreneurs, they can help us make a difference through the innovation we are working on. They can integrate this innovation into their operations. Entrepreneurs in HR tech or AI can create big value in their operations. Working together can create value for the startup, industry, and Canada.