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Ontopical helps companies land more work with local governments by using AI

Apr 4, 2024

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Clayton Feick

Clayton Feick, Chief Executive Officer, Ontopical.


Ontopical, located in the heart of Calgary’s tech hub, helps companies find and win more government business by detecting early signs of new business opportunities. They do that by collecting vast amounts of raw government-produced data found in meeting agendas, minutes, budgets, plans and videos generated from more than 16,000 municipal councils and committees, transportation authorities and school boards.

“We’ve built a sophisticated AI model called Oliver that is trained to read all of this content,” says Clayton Feick, Chief Executive Officer of Ontopical, who joined the company last year. “Oliver sifts through all this data and finds early opportunities for businesses wanting to sell into local government, along with actionable answers about those opportunities in order to win the bid. Oliver is really the copilot in navigating through the almost one million pages a week that we collect across North America.”

The challenge for those looking for work from government entities is that everyone has access to requests for proposals when they are issued. The value of subscription-based Ontopical is that it aids companies in finding an early opportunity even before the RFP stage. Users can also use Ontopical to monitor what their competitors are doing to see if there are certain keywords or topics that are being discussed related to a government grant or special program that may affect their industries.

Ontopical was founded by Derrick Koenig, who is also the Chief Product Officer. A former engineer, Derrick found it challenging to find new business in the public sector ahead of the competition and so that is now the problem the company is trying to solve: how to find new opportunities for businesses within governments — mainly local governments and get the context to engage early and craft a winning bid. Some of Ontopical’s clients include large enterprise construction, engineering firms and telcos in Canada and in the U.S., healthcare, energy and software technology firms who sell into cities are also large consumers of the service.

In September 2023, the company secured $3.3 million in a seed extension financing round. Clayton says raising venture capital was challenging last year, primarily due to the market realities of rising interest rates. “VCs were cautious,” he says. “We were fortunate to stand out and get a strong seed deal done with terrific Canadian VCs in B.C., Alberta and Ontario — which was our focus for this round. Namely, Rhino Ventures, Graphite Ventures and also Yaletown Ventures through their Alberta-focused Accelerate Fund III.”

Goals for 2024

Ontopical is growing its team in Calgary and will continue to serve clients in the engineering, construction, technology, telecom, energy, utilities, consulting and healthcare verticals.

“There’s an industry-wide race to see how golden nuggets of information can be extracted from all this government data using machine learning and LLMs. We believe that we are leading the pack here in North America and Ontopical will continue announcing some exciting partnerships in 2024,” says Clayton.  Ontopical recently announced a partnership with leading Texas-based RFP platform BidPrime, to distribute Ontopical’s data to the American SMB market.

Working with Osler

When it came to choosing to work with a law firm, Clayton says his past experience working with Osler informed the choice to engage with the firm and specifically Michael Grantmyre, partner with the Emerging and High Growth Companies Group, along with associates Jacob Young and Patrick Musgrave.

“I always tell Michael Grantmyre we wouldn’t have got our financing done without Osler and his guidance,” he says. “Previously, I helped grow two Canadian startups and both were fortunate to have successful exits. In 2018, I ran sales for Quandl in Toronto, which was sold to Nasdaq and Osler was on that deal.  In 2021, I was chief revenue officer for Montréal-based Flinks and Osler helped us in a $100 million in a deal with National Bank of Canada. It was natural for me to look to Osler when joining Ontopical and Michael really has established the top high-growth venture practice here in Alberta. He and his team have been tremendous advisors and real partners. They’ve been flexible, approachable and dependable. Osler understands the unique challenges of leading a fast-growing business, dealing with many constraints.”

Advice for other founders in 2024

After the difficult year that was 2023, founders should be focused on building up their companies to make themselves more attractive.

“Keep building, especially during this economic slowdown. Alberta is very business friendly and has a fast-growing tech ecosystem, which is supportive. I would encourage any founder to take advantage of this. There is such an enormous opportunity to apply data, code and AI models to business problems. Take risks but not with your legal counsel,” says Clayton.