Update: May 8th – EhEye captured 2017 KIRA Awards for both Innovation Through Technology and Most Promising Startup. This post originally appeared in early 2017, it is being republished as part of New Brunswick Innovation Week.
EhEye (pronounced AI) is a New Brunswick-based startup improving public safety and security via the use of artificially intelligent video analytics. The company’s innovative software can automatically detect and extract objects, people, activities, and behaviours of interest from streaming video.
CEO James Stewart recently returned from India where he participated in a federally-organized trade mission. An initiative of Global Affairs Canada via the High Commission of Canada in Delhi, the Smart Cities Mission brought Canadian companies to New Delhi and Bengaluru.
We sat down with James to learn more.
ONB: Let’s begin with how the idea for EhEye came about?
Stewart: I have been an auxiliary police officer for 13 years, and spent over three years as a Crime Analyst. The technology used by police has come a long way, but it still has a way to go in terms of better leveraging data. The idea for EhEye has been percolating in my mind for a decade. I attempted something similar years ago but the technology wasn’t there yet; it is now. There have been so many advancements in Big Data, and many companies are now open sourcing their AI libraries. As a result, we have been able to make our own unique software a reality.
Tell us about the Smart Cities mission.
It was a terrific experience. Our thanks go to Global Affairs and everyone else involved, including the many Trade Commissioners we met with. They put on an incredible week of meetings with fantastic organizations in Delhi and Bengaluru.
To put the mission in perspective, officials there suggested that the meetings we were able to have that week would typically take a company three years to network their way into. They really rolled out the red carpet, and companies there were very eager to meet with Canadian businesses.
We returned home with a dozen excellent contacts, four of which are anxious to begin pilot projects. That includes two private companies, one large municipal organization, and an academic institution.
Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs here now that you have returned from India?
I have long been a big believer in focusing on problems rather than technology, and India only reinforced that notion. Rather than creating cool technology in search of a problem to solve innovators in India have focused on problems first. They are innovating out of necessity. I think by travelling to places like India, North American entrepreneurs will see the issues other regions face and how their ideas and solutions could help. There are problems to solve everywhere, get outside your region and find them.
Let’s shift gears and talk New Brunswick. Tell us about your experience launching a business here.
I’m stunned at the amount of support available for entrepreneurs here.
First, you have public sector players like NRC and ONB. NRC was a huge help with the India mission. They really believe in what we’re doing and wrote us a reference letter which was a tremendous boon for us.
At ONB, Emily McGill has been great. She’s volunteered time to help with pitch decks and offer advice on business plans; that’s in addition to ONB’s export development assistance. In our case, ONB is helping EhEye’s growth by making our travel plans affordable. For example, I’m off to Winnipeg later this month to arrange a pilot project. I have more trips planned this year and ONB is making it happen. Being able to attend events and visit export markets is such a crucial part of our growth strategy.
Next up is our friends at Enterprise Saint John; they were actually the first people I met with that left me thinking “I can do this!”
The Pond-Deshpande Centre provided the financing that helped get our prototype finished.
Vennture Garage set us up with an address and office essentials, and offer monthly community meetings, which is where I encountered ONB’s Rivers Corbett, a regular speaker.
Cox & Palmer helped us incorporate and register trademarks. Having their expertise available gave us time to focus on growth.
Finally, Dan Doiron, a business professor at the University of New Brunswick, has been a great mentor. Our latest chat involved market sizing, what it looks like, the right terminology, etc. That’s important when you get in front of investors; they can smell when you don’t know what you’re doing.
Learn more at EhEye.com
Written by Jason Boies
Images via EhEye