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SaaS North

SaaS North Recap: AI and the SaaS Landscape in Canada

Last week, the best in Canadian SaaS businesses convened in Ottawa for SaaS North – a yearly conference that aims to highlight and look at the state of SaaS in Canada. To mark the occasion and to show how the Canadian ecosystem has evolved, L-Spark, the organization behind SaaS North, released a report titled the State of SaaS 2017. View it here

Attendees had an opportunity to learn about marketing, funding, culture, customer success and sales as it relates to SaaS businesses, as well as the role that AI will play in shaping the SaaS industry in the years to come.

With nearly 500 AI startups in the country, we are seeing increased interest in Canadian AI startups from the big players in Silicon Valley. Canada is poised to become the AI capital of North America. David Lennie, senior vice-president of data and analytics at Shopify, discussed how SaaS companies can implement AI into their products and services. He emphasized that the value of AI does not rest solely in the power of algorithms, but also in the data that companies have.

“Start with a business problem and build your data foundation and then just keep doing that, one problem at a time.” — David Lennie

For enterprises that are working with legacy infrastructures but still want to implement AI, Lennie advised companies to stop assuming that they need the “fanciest technology” to build valuable products. Instead, he suggested using existing tools, and using AI only if it helps improve companies’ products. He also emphasized the importance of collecting data, for startups, and collaborating with others that already have data, if AI is a consideration.

Eli Fathi, CEO of Mindbridge AI, moderated a panel of AI experts and posed a question around the economic impact of AI. There was unanimous agreement that there will be some element of dislocation of jobs but in the long run, it will lead to humans holding more creative positions and doing higher order tasks.

“It can make particular tasks more efficient for human workers and in other cases, the task will completely get automated away but there are also opportunities where AI will create completely new business processes and sectors.” – Jason Brenier, Director of Strategy, Georgian Partners 

Kerry Liu, CEO of Rubikloud, a Toronto based company, urged startups to stay here and build their company here but more importantly not to take a second class citizen approach of asking people to come to Canada because it is a lot friendlier, but more so due to the fact that we have better talent here.

Leo Lax, Executive Director of L-Spark, added that AI solutions can help SaaS companies respond to customers in a more efficient manner. “In a business model that, by its definition, has to be responsive constantly to customers’ view of the world, what better tool than AI that can always monitor, assess, review, and then recommend and maybe even do better than that? AI is a natural tool for getting SaaS companies better and better.”

To read the report on the State of Saas 2017, click here.

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