Growing Alberta's AI Advantage: An Interview with Ashif Mawji

While Alberta has long been recognized as a leader in AI research, commercialization hasn’t quite gained the same toehold. Ashif Mawji wants to change that.

Ashif Mawji (Supplied)

One of the biggest hurdles to AI adoption is a lack of understanding. Many business leaders don’t see AI as applicable to their company or even their industry.

“They see AI as a sector; as a separate industry,” explains Ashif. “Not as a tool that enables every industry.”

To help shift this perspective, he invited Amii to present to YPO in Alberta. A global leadership community, YPO provides peer-learning and support to thousands of chief executives worldwide. The Alberta chapter is one of the largest in the world and includes some of the province’s biggest companies.

“The companies in YPO [Alberta] are leaders in their spaces,” says Ashif. “They always like to push the limit; they always want to learn; they always want to grow.”

They also have tons of raw, untapped data, which — if harnessed properly — could transform them into global powerhouses.

“The instant that we started embracing AI, we had very different answers — things that we never would have thought of.”

Ashif Mawji

As a partner at Rising Tide, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm, Ashif has first-hand experience with the transformative power of AI.

“We had a game plan in mind in terms of growth,” he says about a portfolio company. “The instant that we started embracing AI, we had very different answers — things that we never would have thought of.”

Whether it’s detecting greenhouse gas emissions, predicting crop failure or automating supply chains, AI has the potential to radically improve the operational efficiency and economic performance of many traditional industries.

By showcasing two YPO companies, GreenDrop and West Earth Sciences, who are currently working with Amii, Ashif hoped the presentation would inspire others to begin their own journey toward AI adoption.

Amii's AI Adoption Spectrum

“I’m really excited because I think this is a very practical way of leading the transformation that we want to see in Alberta,” he says.

As a director of the newly formed Invest Alberta Corporation, Ashif believes that AI has a big role to play in growing and diversifying Alberta’s economy. Not only does he want to see homegrown companies making better use of their own data, but he also wants to improve the quality of data accessible to all companies.

Over the past eight months, Ashif has been pushing for the democratization of government data, as a way to attract more foreign investment to the province.

“If you were able to bring all that data together —with the right privacy of course — and allowed enterprise, entrepreneurs and researchers to work with it, we would be on fire,” he says.

“We have a new Alberta advantage – and that’s AI.”

Ashif Mawji

Alberta is already in a very “enviable” position. The presence of world-leading research bodies like Amii and DeepMind (purchased by Google in 2014) and the University of Alberta have helped put the province on the map, while exponentially growing the pool of talented professionals needed to help companies through the AI adoption process.

“We have a new Alberta advantage,” says Ashif. “And that’s AI.”

About Ashif Mawji

Ashif Mawji is a serial entrepreneur, philanthropist, venture capitalist, mentor and community builder. He chairs the Edmonton Police Foundation and serves on numerous private and nonprofit boards, including the Invest Alberta Corporation, Sarah McLachlan School of Music, Hockey Canada Foundation, CN Community Foundation, TELUS Friendly Future, Premier’s Council on Charities and Civil Society and others.

Ashif has directly invested into more than 90 companies globally and also serves as a venture partner with Rising Tide (a VC firm in Silicon Valley). He advises and mentors entrepreneurs globally.

Check out our Industry Solutions page for more information on how Amii can help your organization begin to understand and adopt AI.

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