TrojAI, a Saint John company that provides cybersecurity for artificial intelligence, has been accepted into Montreal Techstars, the national program specializing in AI products.
The company's co-founders previously worked on EhEye, a Saint John startup that developed video-recognition software for public security. EhEye was acquired by Patriot One Technologies of Toronto for more than $3.2 million in stock two years ago.
Now TrojAI has developed its first product, and expects to sign three to five early adopters within the next eight to 12 weeks. Its team has also been raising capital and hopes to close a round of more than $900,000 in the near future. Techstars on Monday announced that TrojAI was one of 10 companies admitted into its Techstars Montréal AI 2020 cohort.
“People think of cybersecurity in very traditional ways,” Stephen Goddard, TrojAI’s Chief Operating Officer, said in an interview. He added that the computer vision model developed for AI and the data it uses “hang outside of the traditional way to protect an AI model. . . . We want to protect that data from poisoning attacks or invasion attacks.”
Goddard, a long-time entrepreneur and former New York investment banker, served as Chair of the board of EhEye, whose AI-based technology can monitor security video to detect threats to public safety. The experience the team gained with EhEye showed them just how vulnerable AI solutions are to cyber-attack, and spurred them to form TrojAI to develop a solution.
TrojAI aims to protect artificial intelligence platforms from attacks on training data and AI models, such as poisoning or embedded Trojan and evasion attacks. AI relies on data fed into a platform, such as a huge number of images of an object that help the software recognize an image so it can react to what the object is doing.
Goddard said cyber-attackers can poison the data that is “training” the AI platform. What TrojAI’s secure software-as-a-service product does is help to protect the data and in some cases improve the accuracy and performance of the model, he said.
TrojAI has been raising capital to finance product development and the growth of its team, which will soon add its seventh member.
“TrojAI has been very fortunate in attracting a pre-seed round that is closing in on $750,000 and could be as high as $950,000,” Goddard said.
Techstars, which invests US$20,000 in member companies and grants US$100,000 in convertible debt, provided the venture with a degree of validation with investors, Goddard said. Some TrojAI investors -- including the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation – previously invested in EhEye, and doubled their money in just a year or two.
Goddard also said the team has now been in the Techstars cohort for three weeks and has had a great experience in early interviews, in which they met potential mentors. The organization has an ethos of all participants helping one another and it’s already helping with the sales strategy, he said.
“The reason we were so attracted to Techstars is this product is being designed for global customers, and it’s not a network we have easy access to,” said Goddard. “We asked Tech for assistance so they can help us design the market entry strategy.”