Since the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) was created 42 years ago we have represented the interests of Small and Medium science and technology-centric enterprises. Today these Canada headquartered businesses are in the tens of thousands and have grown to be the heart of the Canadian economy generating $188B in annual revenues.
We are over 150 days into COVID19 and we do not see a comprehensive restart or response plan for the technology sector.
We see well placed companies thriving and others struggling. News of staff layoffs and acquisition activity continues. Many seek equity for new opportunities, pivoting to other markets, applications and verticals. Tech firms, their IP and talent, remain crucial to Canada’s future economy and job creation.
In this ongoing series, we profile companies dealing with the reality of COVID-19 and their experience with emergency government support pro-
For all those struggling there are others that have seen a rise in business activity. They are examples of what CATA contends is why tech firms can help drive economic recovery.
We are inspired, we hope you are too.
Lemay.ai of Ottawa, an enterprise consultancy, has experienced an upswing of 40% in business during the COVID-19 pandemic. During that same time, the firm hired a 20% increase in staff and they expect to hire more.
Matt Lemay, co-founder and CEO, attributes the business increase to two things: first, deals that had been put on hold are now being reactivated; second, companies are forced to look at AI in new and different ways.
Lemay adds, “Companies clearly want more work automation and alleviation. While I can’t say that all interest is tied to COVID-19, for sure it is good for AI in general.”
He continues, “Last year, we saw a sharp rise in implementations, with more and more people seeing AI in a business setting. Depending on the industry, I would say that there is a 50/50 split between those who are and those who are not using AI, in some form. The AI industry has moved from being esoteric to exotic, and potential clients went from fearful to curious. Companies are now more likely to seek new ways to accomplish their goals, and AI can help them achieve those goals faster with more precision.“
Lemay.ai is an approved top-tier federal government AI supplier and an NVIDIA Solution Advisor.
They have worked on government projects,“That particular exposure”, says Lemay, “is an important business asset to have. It creates credible brand power that allows you to compete with large consulting firms. We look forward to increasing our existing overseas and US business, and being able to say that our own government buys and uses our products and services is important.”
As for assistance from government, Lemay has long been a user of the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program both for Lemay.ai and sister company AuditMap Technologies, which identifies enterprise risks and risk trends from internal audit reports. He says he is extremely thankful for this kind of funding, but thinks its use should be accelerated and that the system could be reworked to be more supportive of financially-strapped startups. The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) believes that SR&ED data can be used to pre-qualify and assess proportionate funding for established innovative firms who have a track record of using SR&ED.
Regarding another key point of the CATA proposal, that the support for these firms will drive Canada’s economic recovery as companies of all kinds need the solutions offered by tech firms. Lemay says, “I absolutely believe this to be the case. Innovation is critical and tech already enables that innovation. Before COVID, 80% of our clients we never met face-to-face; now, it is over 90%. We are designed to be a remote, cloud-based company and many other companies are taking advantage of that business model. It had value before, and now with COVID it has even more value.”
CATA’S proposed Resilience and Rebound (RR) Fund and Data Solution seeks to provide simpler assistance eligibility using available Canadian Revenue Agency audited data. Proportionate and partly forgivable loans, pegged to previous SR&ED claim amounts, will help bring talent back to work and retain sovereign IP as a foundation for bridging to the future. Funds would finance growth expansion and development of new commercial opportunities and/or help bridge stressed COVID19 induced issues for these firms. StatsCan data reveals that 13,000 Canadian SMEs have established SR&ED records and they directly employ 760,000 and with downstream jobs added in they support 4 million people.