The NTT DATA Open Innovation Contest made a stop in Toronto last night to watch seven companies try and pitch their way to the grand finale in Tokyo.
After each company tried to convince the judges on why they were the best fit to work with NTT DATA, Zoom.ai was crowned the winner and will now travel to Japan to take part in the grand finale on March 22 against winners from around the world.
“Thank you so much,” said Zoom.ai’s pitcher and customer success manager Jesse Albiston as he received the award. “This is an incredible opportunity for Zoom.ai. We have a few team members here who have been to Japan in the past. We are so excited and we’re going to bring this back for Toronto.”
— Zoom.ai (@Zoomdotai) February 7, 2018
The choice of Zoom.ai is fitting to represent Canada as the country has been leading the AI scene over the past couple of years.
NTT DATA is the IT and innovation arm of their parent company, NTT, which is based in Japan and landed at 50 on the Fortune 500 with global revenues over $105 billion USD. The Open Innovation Pitch Contest is held in 15 cities around the world and invites one winner from each to compete in a grand finale that will see the winner work closely with NTT DATA and the opportunities they bring.
The event began with a keynote from CEO and co-founder of Wattpad Allen Lau, along with an address from the newly minted CEO of MaRS, Yung Wu.
“Capital does not lead—it follows,” said Wu. “A partnership with NTT DATA is what capital follows. This opportunity can be a game changer to allow a venture to break out.”
Toronto was the eighth stop on the tour and saw seven diverse companies pitch to the panel of judges that included Kotaro Zamma and Kaz Okada, NTT DATA’s head and senior expert of open innovation and business incubation respectively. The other judges were Autodesk’s head of design and social impact Ramtin Attar, and the president of ANAi Global Luce Veilleux. The pitch competition took place at the MaRS Discovery District.
The companies pitching were:
- WorkTango, a platform that both enables insightful measurement of employee engagement and frequent short-term goal setting that is transparent to the whole company. Co-founder Rob Catalano pitched.
- Remitr, a blockchain-based international money transfer service. Co-founder and CEO Kanchan Kumar pitched.
- Zoom.ai, a work assistant that integrates with any popular chat platform to make every employee’s life easier. Customer success manager Jesse Albiston pitched.
- Slice Labs, a simplified insurance company meant to give owners flexibility. Co-founder and CEO Tim Attia pitched.
- Distributed ID, an enterprise fraud management platform. Co-founder and CTO Merrick Read pitched.
- Inkblot, a mental health care platform for large organizations. Co-founder Arash Zohoor pitched.
- Comfable, a wearable device that measures UV and sun exposure to better protect users from skin cancer and sunburn. Co-founder and CEO Neda Ghazi pitched.
The companies chosen to work with NTT DATA will not receive any kind of prize money upfront but will have the chance to prove their company on an international stage. NTT DATA has partnerships with some of the biggest organizations not only in Japan, but the world, and companies that work with them will be shown what it means to scale on a global level.
Companies can also be a part of the massive social infrastructure NTT DATA has created, and possibly receive funding down the line once a fruitful working relationship is constructed.
NTT DATA was quick to point out that not winning the Toronto competition won’t result in a partnership. Of the 10 companies that pitched last year, NTT DATA is still in talks with seven of them. The winner of last year’s Canadian pitch competition, Soundpays, did not win the grand prize in Japan but did take home the audience prize.