Northeast Ohio AI startups want to hire people, not replace them

The Cleveland startup LIFTR uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help companies model how audiences will engage with ads, saving businesses the time and money of traditional A/B testing. Although it just released its first product in January, the company has already attracted a number of significant clients, said co-founder Ted Troxell. Still, as he looks ahead to the next stage of growth, he’s worried about attracting talent.

“The difficulty we have establishing an AI company in Northeast Ohio is expanding our talent pool,” he said. “There are lots of people who want to learn AI here, but to really see success, we need buy-in from all the stakeholders.”

Brendan Mulcahy, a software developer who co-chairs the Cleveland AI meetup group with Troxell, said he believes Troxell is right. He said that Cleveland needs more tech talent who understand AI in order to unlock the full business potential of the technology. “There are a lot of opportunities where companies could be using these technologies, but because there aren’t a lot of people who know how to do it, they’re not taking advantage of it,” he noted.

Nonetheless, these tech leaders say that the success of the AI meetup group, which regularly attracts 70 or more people to its free, open sessions, is a good sign. They also run an online study group called Fast AI that has been regularly attracting 50 or more people.

As more people are trained in AI and more businesses tap into machine learning, Northeast Ohio’s tech talent pool will grow, they say.

Heather Hall, entrepreneur-in-residence for software and IT with the Jumpstart Inc. business accelerator, said her organization is seeing more and more AI startups in Northeast Ohio. “I’ve been in this role for 16 months, and the number of AI companies I have now versus this time last year, it has grown exponentially,” she said.

Read the full story from Crain’s Cleveland Business