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Element AI helps Korean firms get smarter

Nov 20,2019
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Element AI executives and representatives of its local partners pose at the start-up’s first press conference held Tuesday in central Seoul. [ELEMENT AI]
Element AI, a Canadian artificial intelligence (AI) business solutions start-up, is expanding in Korea as local firms begin to consider the different ways to make AI work for them.

Established in 2016, the Canadian start-up was founded by a group of AI computer scientists including Yoshua Bengio, a professor at the University of Montreal and the 2018 winner of the Turing Award, dubbed the “Nobel Prize of computing.”

Its Seoul office, launched in February 2018, is the company’s fourth after Toronto, London and Singapore.

“What’s notable about the Korean market is companies’ appetite for innovation and longing to expand their businesses using AI technology,” said Eum Byoung-chan, Element AI’s principal director for North Asia during a press conference held Tuesday in central Seoul.

“But AI researchers from Asian countries are very closed and left out from global collaboration on AI. We need more global interaction to help people learn in a global ecosystem, and I believe that’s something Element AI can contribute to.”

Element AI offers software tools and products based on AI technology that solve business problems. In Korea, the market for AI-based business solutions is in its early stage. According to Eum, a lot of the time, discussions with corporate clients start with the very basics - what can AI actually do for them.

AI services are also offered by global IT giants like Google and Amazon, but Element AI says its strength lies in the fact that it offers optimized products tailored to each client - instead of simply allowing access to cloud-based applications - and also ensures the client can properly use those tools without prior AI experience.

The company’s work with Korean companies goes back to 2017, when Hanwha Asset Management participated in its Series A funding. That same year, the start-up partnered with Hanwha Group, SK Telecom and Hyundai Motor to form an AI alliance as a tech adviser. Among its current clients are Shinhan Financial Group and LG Electronics.

“Korea was a logical investment,” said Philippe Beaudoin, the company’s co-founder, explaining that Korea is one of the fastest-growing markets in terms of AI adoption.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]