Will.i.am last performed in Montreal in 2010 but he’s planning to be back a lot more often now. In a board room.
The Black Eyed Peas co-founder appeared in the city Thursday alongside executives of Stradigi AI, a company he invested an undisclosed amount in and that appointed him as adviser on ethics and bias. The seven-time Grammy winner, who has an AI-focused tech company of his own, i.am+, said he was impressed with Stradigi’s work on image recognition and fraud detection when the team first visited him in Los Angeles.
In an interview, the artist turned entrepreneur said he will come to Montreal at least four times a year, playing a role that could range from making sure image recognition has been tested on enough skin tones, to keeping concerns on the impact of AI on under-served communities to the forefront.
AI is “a new way of looking at computing, and with that you need guidance on keeping people first, and that’s a lot of the things that we’re going to be doing together,” he said. “When you develop these tools and these systems, think about how it impacts society as a whole.”
The announcement adds a touch of glamour to the city’s fast-growing AI scene, which according to Montreal International has attracted about $500 million worth of foreign investment in the past two years. It also puts the spotlight on a little-known company that’s been developing algorithms to help governments and businesses solve specific issues.
Stradigi has helped an e-commerce company capture the style of clients as they browse the website and make recommendations that go beyond the “people who like this also like this,” says Carolina Bessega, one of the company’s co-founders and its chief scientific officer.
The company, which used to focus on software and pivoted to AI in 2017, touted a new platform and the will.i.am partnership during a press conference on the sideline of C2 Montreal, a conference on business and creativity.
Will.i.am, who recently invested in Impossible Foods -- the maker of the plant-based Impossible Burger -- said his defining criteria include “passion, things I’m excited about, things that have impact on the world.”