Saint John-based TrojAI, which makes cybersecurity software for artificial intelligence systems, has been recognized as one of the 100 most promising AI startups in the world by New York startup intelligence group CB Insights.
CB Insights this week published its sixth annual list of the world’s most promising AI startups in the world. Betakit reported Thursday that five of the companies are Canadian – four in Toronto and TrojAI – and that only the U.S. and U.K. had more companies on the list than Canada.
“It's pretty huge from the perspective of the company we are in,” said TrojAI Co-Founder and CEO James Stewart. “The timing is pretty great too as it aligns with our traction. We've already received congratulations from a number of large logos and investors. Personally, I'm over the moon to see the team get this recognition.”
He added that CB Insights evaluated more than 7,000 companies from around the world in determining its Top 100, and last year the members of the group raised more than $6 billion in total.
TrojAI’s software is designed to prevent cyberattacks hidden in the data used to train artificial intelligence programs. AI systems learn by being fed reams of information, such as photos, and searching for patterns, but sophisticated hackers can conceal malware in the same data. The company’s technology is meant to prevent both deliberate attacks and accidental damage caused by more organic edge cases -- a service intended primarily for large corporations already using AI for real-world business applications.
In January, TrojAI closed a $3 million seed round led by Halifax’s Build Ventures and Seattle’s Flying Fish Ventures, which was co-founded by former Microsoft, Amazon and Getty Images execs. A year earlier, it had raised a $750,000 pre-seed round from such investors as Halifax-based Concrete Ventures and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation.
In an interview Thursday, Stewart and Co-Founder and COO Stephen Goddard said TrojAI has been gaining traction, securing one paying customer in the fourth quarter of 2021 and another in the first quarter of this year. Since closing its last round, the team has been working hard on business development activities, trying to understand the evolving market and working on marketing efforts.
The result has been more enquiries, and deeper conversations once they do connect with paying customers, they said.
“There’s almost a palpable shift in the market,” said Stewart. “We’ve been doing this since May, 2017, and in the last year – in the last month even -- there has been growing awareness of the need to protect your AI system. It’s all of a sudden accepted.”
Goddard added that TrojAI has broadened its offering to meet the changes in the market. It began working just in computer vision but has since expanded to include natural language and structured data models. That means it now offers cybersecurity solutions for three of the main areas in AI.
TrojAI has an 11-member team and it expects to add another employee imminently, and will be looking for two more people in the near future.
As well as generating more sales and engagement with customers, the co-founders are also viewing a Series A funding round early in 2023. They admitted the timing could be affected by geopolitical events and the investment atmosphere in the coming months.
“We’re on track with the expected cadence of the next raise,” said Goddard. “We’re hoping for Q1 of next year, or maybe Q2. Our current investors expect us to look to market around that time.”