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CVCA Member Profiles

CVCA New Member Profile: AltaML’s Venture Studio

We’re continuing our member series on CVCA Central; profiling our members and providing insight into these invaluable organizations in our community.

The latest member we are excited to profile is AltaML’s Venture Studio.

Tell us about AltaML’s Venture Studio.

AltaML’s Venture Studio builds and backs early-stage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) companies within specific enterprise verticals. Combining our wealth of experience across 400 AI use cases with our replicable company-building process, we increase the probability of success during the initial stages of company inception. 

We source ideas from three areas: AI labs with enterprise partners, founders approaching us, and our internal product team. Regardless of where the idea comes from, we bring together talent, capital, and expertise in AI/ML to enable ideas with a competitive edge and transform them into high-performing companies. 

Studios are embracing the dual entity model as a best practice, and we are no different. We are currently in the process of closing AltaML Fund I LP, which backs projects as they materialize from the Studio to support the endeavors of its Ventures from pre-seed to seed. While the Fund’s primary focus is to support Ventures within our Studio, our team will consider investing in compelling companies outside the Studio that align with our investment thesis where we can add value on the AI/ML side. 

Since the founding of AltaML in 2018, the team has executed numerous projects in collaboration with enterprise clients, including Suncor, ATB Financial, and the Government of Alberta. Within this timeframe, we’ve successfully launched five Ventures, leveraging the unique access to invaluable insights, data, and domain expertise acquired from our enterprise partners. We recognized an opportunity to further our impact on innovation within the enterprise, leading to the recent establishment of our Studio and the launch of a Fund to foster the growth of our Ventures. 

In the Studio, entrepreneurs benefit from access to our over 100-person team, offering support across diverse functions such as ML, software development, product management, people and talent, and marketing and communications. With offices situated in key Canadian cities including Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, and Waterloo, we provide widespread coverage for collaborative success.

What is AltaML’s Focus?

We collaborate with entrepreneurs to foster their growth, offering capital at the earliest stages. As ventures progress to the pre-seed stage, our Fund steps in, providing pre-seed capital and leading the seed round. We believe that the most promising investment opportunities in this industry involve applying ML to vertical applications. Our investment thesis has three key components:

  1. Applied AI: Forget science experiments — the trillion-dollar opportunity is applying AI to business problems.
  2. Vertical Industries: Hyperscalers have the resources to compete in the horizontal platform battle; industry focus is now vital for success.
  3. High-Growth B2B: We find markets that we love to play in, including high-growth markets and promising niches within traditional B2B industries.

Who are the key folks at AltaML’s Venture Studio?

Cory Janssen is the Managing Director of AltaML Fund I LP and the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of AltaML. Previously, Cory co-founded Investopedia, a financial education site that provided content and tools to help educate individual investors. From its founding in 1999, Investopedia became one of the most popular financial sites on the web and was sold to Forbes Media in 2007. Cory is also a director at VerticalScope Inc., and sits on several private-company advisory boards. 

As Head of Ventures at AltaML, Craig Haney drives the growth of new and existing ventures within the AltaML Venture Studio. With extensive experience at some of Canada’s top tech companies, including Canadian Tire and ApplyBoard, Craig has successfully overseen innovation and technology initiatives. Craig serves on the board for both Propel Accelerator and Canada’s Ocean Supercluster. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Waterloo and an undergraduate degree from Western University. 

Peter Barr boasts an impressive 40-year career with Deloitte, including a distinguished executive role as a National Managing Partner of Industry and Marketplace. As Partner of AltaML Fund I LP and Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) for AltaML, Peter has been a key contributor to the company’s global expansion, utilizing his expertise to propel AltaML’s business to new heights. Peter actively engages in the innovation ecosystem of the region, serving as an Executive member of both the Board of Governors at the University of Waterloo and the Board of Directors of Communitech Inc and as a member of the Board of Directors for Archangel Network of Funds. His extensive background in strategy, governance, innovation, audit, and accounting uniquely positions him to steer AltaML through its growth phase effectively. 

What is AltaML’s Venture Studio Excited About?

In the short run, we are most excited about the opportunities that exist at the intersection of sustainability and data. Our roots in Alberta have naturally led to deep relationships within the energy/​utilities sector, and we believe the use cases here have the greatest ability to drive carbon reduction than any other industry. 

Of course, we are at the peak of the hype cycle when it comes to generative AI (GenAI). Yes, we have a ton of projects in the pipeline in this area, but it’s worth saying that AI/ML is not solely GenAI. Not every winner in this space will stem from building foundational models. All successful ML use cases are driven by putting together a deep understanding of a workflow with an edge on data. This stands true for any use case involving a large language model as well. There is no moat in building GPT wrappers!

In the long term, we see AI making its most impactful contributions in the realm of health care. We know it can create value in terms of patient outcomes and improvements for humanity, but also from a financial perspective. Right now, the regulatory regime and mindsets within the industry need to catch up to where the technology is. We have begun efforts in this area by building partnerships, conducting initial work, and preparing for the moment when AI in health becomes more primed for investment.