Recognized in 2020 by the World Economic Forum as one of the most promising technology pioneers to watch for, MindBridge Analytics Inc. (MindBridge) of Ottawa, Ontario, is a true Canadian-grown success story.
Founded in 2015, MindBridge is a fintech company that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect errors and anomalies in financial data. The company quickly established itself as a leader in the financial audit market with its platform used by more than 20,000 accountants and finance professionals around the world. The company is now expanding its platform into new markets including enterprise, government and financial services.
Since MindBridge's early days, the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) has provided advisory services and funding to strengthen the firm's technology, connect it with key expertise in the Canadian innovation ecosystem, and accelerate their growth.
Beginning to work together
When MindBridge first approached NRC IRAP in 2015, they came to the table with a core management team, business plan and even some traction in the market. What they were missing was additional talent and resources to take their technology to the next level and to help them expand their market reach.
As a first step, NRC IRAP provided the company with funding to hire some new graduates, as well as established experts in the field of AI. MindBridge was able to leverage this newly onboarded expertise to build state-of-the-art AI engines and new user interface elements to enable the company's first major product release.
"When you have a small team, it is sometimes hard to get to critical mass from a technology angle," says Eli Fathi, Chief Executive Officer of MindBridge. "But with that additional manpower, supported by NRC IRAP, we were able to expand our algorithms and develop a really comprehensive product to be used by more and more businesses—allowing us to grow."
MindBridge also developed its AI capabilities to not only define what anomalies to look for—but also apply and redefine those "rules" every single time, becoming more intelligent with every use.
"Working with NRC IRAP helps you move on the technology roadmap—to move your product to the next level, then the next level beyond that, and then bigger projects and bigger functionality,"
Velko Tzolov, the NRC IRAP industrial technology advisor (ITA) who supported MindBridge for several years, further explains the relationship. "Support from NRC IRAP allows firms to build their innovation capacity layer by layer, growing and developing as new challenges and opportunities arise. As an ITA, it's a pleasure to work with companies like MindBridge and be part of this journey."
Making essential connections: IP and cyber security
Along with MindBridge's growing success also came risk. Companies that manage financial data can be at increased risk of cyber attacks.
Given the firm's growing visibility, NRC IRAP has also provided ongoing guidance on building a stronger cyber-security framework for the firm.
As part of this special advisory service, the NRC IRAP information and communications technology (ICT) sector team put MindBridge in touch with the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security; as well as In-Sec-M, a non-profit organization that provided cyber security consulting services, best practices and a strategy customized to the firm's needs and environment.
"Part of the beauty of working with NRC IRAP is their connections—they put us in touch with cyber security experts, and they've been giving us guidance on how to improve our security," says Eli. "We work closely with them and seek advice on a regular basis which has enabled us to put together a very strong cyber security plan for the company."
Expanding into a new lucrative market
Seeing a growing trend in the success and popularity of enterprise software, MindBridge decided to seize this lucrative opportunity and release a new strategy to go after this market.
MindBridge is now empowering finance teams within businesses to do their own internal audits, find anomalies in general ledger data themselves, spot risks in less time, and turn over reports to shareholders with confidence.
To facilitate this market move, NRC IRAP helped connect MindBridge with prominent organizations to try out the product and validate its usability and efficiency pre-release.
A bright future in fintech
MindBridge has come a long way since it first reached out to NRC IRAP. The company now has more than 300 customers across 14 countries and more than tripled the size of its workforce. In addition, the firm has secured a $14.5 million investment from Canada's Strategic Innovation Fund in 2019.
With support from NRC IRAP, MindBridge has also been able to more easily secure external funding from venture capitalists. "No investor wants to take a risk on their own shoulders—so one of the first questions they often ask companies is if they've talked to NRC IRAP," says Velko. "If NRC IRAP provides a firm with financial and advisory support, this is generally well received by investors who are looking to reduce their financial risk. Our support for MindBridge has played a huge role in conversations going forward with equity and debt investors."
According to Eli, NRC IRAP has not only been a helpful resource in MindBridge's own evolution—but many other homegrown businesses too.
"I believe NRC IRAP is the top Canadian federal program for boosting innovation in SMEs. If you ask CEOs around the country, many will tell you without hesitation that NRC IRAP excels at enabling businesses to be more successful. The program should be commended for helping companies move to the next level. It's been amazing."
As more and more business is conducted digitally—and financial technology becomes increasingly sophisticated—MindBridge is poised for a bright and busy future in the burgeoning fintech industry.