Credit: Charli AI. Founder and CEO Kevin Collins
The Vancouver company’s new Ancaeus platform brings generative AI to the biggest enterprises
When your spouse wants to rip your brain out to understand you better, you know you’re ahead. And that’s exactly what Kevin Collins, founder and CEO of Vancouver software company Charli AI, says his wife wants after he’s gone.
“For me, it just depends on the patterns of how things work. I got a bug,” he says of his a long-standing fascination with artificial intelligence.
By 11th grade, Collins, who grew up in Vancouver, was already taking apart computers like the Apple IIe to get inside the circuits of the machine’s decision-making process. Since then, he has hard-coded artificial intelligence as one of his main interests, devoting some 30 years to machine learning both as an entrepreneur and as a business executive.
Before starting Charli AI, he was the co-founder and CEO of Bit Stew Systems, a Vancouver-based data intelligence platform. acquired by GE Digital in 2016. As CEO of Bit Stew and even during his transition to GE, Collins recalls always relying on his chief of staff to keep his head above water. However, this is not a position that every company can afford. “WI knew we could solve it in the world of AI,” says Collins.
Charli (a show about an HR manager) launched in 2018 with the goal of automating the work of an executive assistant, from performing admin tasks to writing reports and taking meaningful meeting notes. But the CEO admits that Charlie is a little more controversial than others in the AI space: “Some people say, Well, it’s going to take my job. And it’s like, no, what we’re actually doing is overloading human decision-making. On the contrary, according to Collins, one of Charli’s commercial real estate clients has been able to double their revenue and, instead of laying off employees, has been able to better retain employees who were at risk of burnout.
Everything runs on the company’s new Ancaeus platform. What Collins wanted to do differently with this platform was to preserve the interaction between human and artificial intelligence, because “AI doesn’t work in a black box.” This means Charlie is always learning from feedback – if you make a change to the review he’s created, he’ll remember it next time.
It took a 15-person team of what Collins calls “real scientists, not just engineers” to build Charli’s deep technology, which provides generative AI for companies in financial services and commercial real estate. Many of Charli’s customers want to use the Ancaeus platform to analyze content that they encounter on a daily basis (for example, researching, analyzing and preparing reports that usually take a month to complete).
The tech company’s current offerings include Charli AI Research, Charli AI Meetings, Charli AI Automation and Charli AI Bookmarks with more than 600 applications across industries. As of 2018, it has a total of 30 employees, which has allowed Charlie to go from working with small players to Fortune 100 companies, including “every major bank in North America,” as Collins says. In fact, he notes that demand has increased 20-fold in the past six months alone.
“When you think of AI in Canada, you usually think of Toronto and Montreal,” he says. “But the team we’ve got here is absolutely brilliant – they’re the best in the world. And it’s not advertised a lot. The main team here, there’s no way I’m going to give them up.”