Toronto

Toronto welcoming artificial intelligence company back from Silicon Valley

ROSS Intelligence, which has computers do research for lawyers, going back to U of T roots

Toronto ROSS Intelligence

Mayor John Tory speaks with the founders of ROSS Intelligence after the company announced the opening of its Toronto research and development centre. (CBC)

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An artificial intelligence company that uses computers, not lawyers, to sift through thousands of legal documents in search of key information is moving part of its operations to Toronto.

ROSS Intelligence co-founder Andrew Arruda calls opening a research and development centre here a "no brainer."

Arruda, one of the University of Toronto graduates who founded the company, was back on campus Monday to announce the news, calling the city "the hub of artificial intelligence development."

While the company's headquarters remain in San Francisco, "Toronto is where we always knew we had to be," Arruda told a crowd who gathered on campus for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Toronto Andrew Arruda

ROSS co-founder Andrew Arruda recounted starting the project in an unheated basement on the U of T campus. Now, the company is based in San Francisco. (CBC)

Last month, the university launched its new Vector Institute, which is aiming to bring the A.I. field's top minds to Toronto, and keep them there. Meanwhile, Mayor John Tory, on hand for the event, said he's hoping to lure more tech companies here.

"We want to be home to disruptive technologies," he said.

Tory also joked that he wished the A.I. researcher existed when he was working as a lawyer.

Arruda never met the mayor while his team was working on the project in an unheated basement of a "student housing house," but their paths crossed recently when Tory was doing a trade mission in Silicon Valley, where ROSS Intelligence had moved to be part of the well-known Y Combinator program for start-up businesses.

Toronto's talent pool among world's best, mayor says

Tory said he believes the company made the move to take advantage of the city's "massive" talent pool.

"I've had companies tell me there is no other place on Earth they can find smart, educated people from a diverse a series of backgrounds that help them do their business internationally ... and I think that's the main factor," he said.

While both Tory and Arruda spoke at length about diversity, both down played concerns about tightening immigration rules in the U.S.

"It's always a factor," Arruda said following the announcement, but more so it's about "returning to the forefront of A.I. research — and that's happening right here."

Tory said the city's legal department could use A.I. in the future, however Arruda said that will have to wait as the technology hasn't learned Canadian law — yet. 

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