EhEye, the Saint John company that uses artificial intelligence and data analytics in video surveillance, has raised $500,000 in funding after courting 250 potential investors.
CEO James Stewart said in an interview Tuesday that the round was led by the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, which came in with $150,000. EhEye raised the same amount from friends and family. As well as these equity investments, the company borrowed $100,000 from Business Development Bank of Canada and received other funding from the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency and NRC-Irap.
“I contacted 33 people for every $15,000 that I raised,” said Stewart with a laugh. A former auxiliary policeman with a PhD in data analytics, Stewart said he was spurred to get out and meet investors by Isaac Souweine, General Manager of the Montreal-based accelerator FounderFuel, who has become a personal mentor.
EhEye has produced technology that notifies authorities if there is something suspicious caught on the video. In other words, it can recognize someone wearing a ski mask or carrying a gun in a crowd. At a packed stadium, it can even recognize if someone is carrying a backpack and later is walking around without the backpack.
The company was a finalist in NBIF’s Breakthru competition last year, and won several other awards. It was a co-winner of the Grandmothers’ Choice Award, a pitching competition in which a panel of grandmothers chooses the winners, at Startup Fest in Montreal last summer. Through that win, Stewart was introduced to Souweine, who helped to connect the company with investors and customers.
“Artificial intelligence is an emerging tool often associated with cybersecurity,” said NBIF Chief Executive Calvin Milbury in a statement. “This is one of the first instances we’ve seen where a company has leveraged AI for personal security, and we’re proud to support them. EhEye’s widespread potential for positive impact on the wellbeing and safety of both people and infrastructure is incredibly promising.”
The past few months have been active for EhEye, which now has a team of nine people with offices in Saint John and Fredericton. It’s hiring more people.
In September, the company deployed its minimum viable product to its first customer, Investors Group Field in Winnipeg. The initial product had the ability to recognize weapons or public disturbances. EhEye has since tapped the Build in Canada Innovation Program (through which the federal government adopts innovative Canadian products) to work with a sea port and an airport.
Stewart said EhEye plans to release its version 2.0 in March, and add a couple more early adopters to its client list through the first quarter.
Meanwhile, he’s already looking forward to the next funding round, and is reconnecting with some of the venture capital investors he approached last year.
“I have developed a lot of relationships,” said Stewart. “I knew very little about fundraising so I was targeting the wrong level of VC. I’m meeting with one of them next week. He knows how gritty we are and what we’ve gone through. We’re still too early for them but he’s told us what we need to do to be prepared for them.”
Disclosure: NBIF, ACOA and BDC are clients of Entrevestor.