Halifax-based QRA Corp., which provides natural language processing for complex engineering tasks, has closed a US$3 million (C$3.8 million) funding round to enhance its business development and customer service teams.
The venture capital funds participating in the round are Paris- and San Francisco-based Newfund and BDC Capital, both of which are first-time QRA investors, and returning investor Innovacorp. BDC Capital, part of the federal government’s Business Development Bank of Canada, made the investment through its Bridge Financing Program, which was announced when the pandemic broke out.
QRA is best known for its flagship product QVscribe, which is a software system that can tell if there are problems in the written instructions or specifications describing a mechanism. This helps businesses catch inconsistencies in the early-stage of development.
“We realized that most engineering problems aren’t caused by poor design, but instead are the result of poorly written, ambiguous requirements,” said QRA Founder and Chief Executive Jordan Kyriakidis in a statement. “To solve this problem at the source, our solution applies multiple technologies, including natural language processing and language models to automatically check and verify requirements for clarity, consistency, and compliance against company and industry standards.”
QVscribe is used by product design teams in multi-billion-dollar energy, infrastructure, and other complex engineering projects. The software inspects project requirement specifications and alerts product designers to potential errors as they occur. Detecting and correcting these errors saves millions of dollars in rework and redesign and has the potential to protect lives and avoid litigation by reducing product failures, said QRA.
As he worked on this funding round, Kyriakidis was introduced to a San Francisco-based partner at Newfund and they immediately found common ground. With $300 million in capital under management, Newfund makes seed and pre-seed investments around the world, and now has a portfolio of more than 90 companies.
“We really felt this was someone we could work with,” said Kyriakidis in an interview. “They can help us with business development and introduce us to enterprise customers around the world. And some of their portfolio companies are in a similar space but ahead of us, and we could learn from them.”
Said Newfund Partner Henri Deshays: “We were impressed by the quality of the QRA team and its co-founders with remarkable and complementary scientific backgrounds. Another key differentiator lies in QRA’s unique machine reasoning approach applied to written technical requirements. Lastly, QRA’s focus on mission critical systems clearly sets them aside from other companies.”
QRA said the funding – its first round since 2015 – will allow it to expand its sales, marketing, engineering and support teams. Kyriakidis said customer support and customer success are important divisions now because the company’s user base has grown so significantly.
In the last 18 months, the company’s revenue has more than doubled, while the number of customers has almost doubled. The real growth has happened from existing customers increasing their use of the QRA product, said Kyriakidis.
He added that the company needs to hire engineers. “We are top of the world in what we do, but there are competitors, so we have to maintain that position,” he said.
The company now has more than 15 employees, and as it grows it wants to maintain the culture it has developed in the past few years.
“What I like about our team is we all have the same vision of building something that’s going to last,” said Kyriakidis. “We all want to build something substantial and we want to do it here on the East Coast.”