Hong Kong AI firm Kami lands ‘most investible’ title at StartPlanetNI

31 Mar 2017

From left: Niall Casey, Invest Northern Ireland; Alex Cheung, Kami; Diane Roberts, Xcell Partners; Bill Liao, lead mentor of StartPlanetNI and European venture partner at SOSV. Image: Brian Morrison

StartPlanetNI’s start-up demo day saw AI firm Kami earn the title of most investible company, seeing off rivals from Europe to take top spot.

AI, the movie, was one of many such films that described a future where artificial intelligence integrates with humans seamlessly. Replacing them, if anything.

It was the stuff of fiction, a world so far into the future that it was difficult to imagine. However, many companies are working to make some elements of that plot line a reality.

For example, Kami, the brainchild of a team of Hong Kong software engineers, has the vision of creating literate machines that can think, reason and communicate just like humans.

Led by Alex Cheung, Simon Ho, Jonathan Chan, Howard Cheng and Barry Au, it was deemed the most investible company at StartPlanetNI’s Crumlin Road Gaol event this week.

Its current investors include C-level executives from companies in the AI, robotics and banking industries, something that helped the organisers make their decision.

Kami’s move from Hong Kong to Belfast for the event has proven such a success that Cheung claims the company will retain an interest in the Northern Ireland city.

“Moving to Belfast from Hong Kong was a very big decision but StartPlanetNI has exceeded our expectations,” said Cheung.

“We have met a lot of inspirational mentors and business professionals. They have been very motivating and provided sound business advice, which we very much appreciate.

“Most of all, we have made excellent connections here, such as the Global Entrepreneur Program. We are forming partnerships with some of the largest corporations in the UK.”

Northern Ireland-based start-up Go Testify saw its very own Gordon Campbell voted as the best overall contributor to the programme.

Campbell created Go Testify alongside his brother, with the company providing a self-service platform through which game studios can watch, listen and learn from real players all over the world in their own environment, and receive valuable feedback before their games are released to the mass market.

Five other start-ups were involved in the programme. During StartPlanetNI, the seven companies were based in the purpose-designed co-working space at 112 Donegall Street, in the heart of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.

This is part of a global network of SOSV Revolution co-working spaces, ranging from San Francisco to Cork, and further afield to Shenzhen and Shanghai.

Speaking on the importance of having a global presence, Bill Liao, lead mentor at StartPlanetNI and European venture partner at SOSV, said: “It is critical that our companies raise their expectations – go all out to compete at a global level and win important and valuable markets, wherever that may be.

“The ability to compete in different markets and scale globally is a key factor in attracting investment to grow the business further.”

Disclosure: SOSV is an investor in Silicon Republic

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic