Brett Patrontasch wasn’t a tech guy when he cofounded the company he now helms that makes a mobile service for scheduling shift-based employees. He owned a home services company and found that he had no way to communicate with more than 200 house painters. “It made sense where mobile was going,” he observes, “that shift workers would need technology just for them.”
Teaming with University of Toronto tech buddies Daniel Chen, Chris Pitchford and Kyle Liu, Patrontasch created Shyft to let workers communicate, manage their schedules and swap shifts. Through the app, frontline workers can better juggle their work hours and their life circumstances, and managers save valuable time while reducing no-shows and call-outs.
Shyft is focusing on enterprise brands, such as with Gap Inc.’s entire fleet of 2,450 locations that include Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta. It’s finding that managers save between two and five hours a week, while absenteeism is reportedly reduced by 60 percent at stores, with greater employee retention. Patrontasch notes, “We’re solving problems for these real users.”
This startup, spun out last year from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, boasts of “AI Everywhere for Everyone” so confidently, it’s currently the name of the product. Most AI relies on internet connectivity to large data centers for the heavy computational lifting, keeping the cost of smart devices high. Xnor.ai aims to embed AI in less expensive “edge” devices like drones and IoT hardware that can run just as efficiently. Its self-service development platform makes it easy for those without AI expertise to integrate AI into their app. The company recently closed a $12 million Series A funding round.
AI fills the “last mile” for nonnative English-speaking employees through Blue Canoe’s learning app, helping them improve pronunciation and business communication. Using methodologies from brain science, Blue Canoe uses engaging mobile games to vault barriers to language learning. Nonnative English speakers benefit from enriched quality of life and career prospects where English is the common business language. Incubated by the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, Blue Canoe has launched a private beta, with users in more than 15 countries throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia.