23 May 2022

Inside Logistics : Singapore startup makes R&D beachhead in Toronto

Supply chain software provider Quincus has opened a research office in Toronto.

It will be the first location in Canada for the six-year-old Singapore-based company, which specializes in data-based supply chain analysis.

The research at the new office will be focused on machine learning, artificial intelligence, and reinforcement learning.

Jonathan Savoir, the company’s CEO and co-founder, said in an interview that the biggest challenge seen in logistics is data, especially looking at the supply chain and the number of goods shipped daily. He explained that even though this issue was heavily researched for many decades, companies started solving these issues only a couple of years ago using the computational power of AI and machine learning in newer technologies.

“Now, we can really solve the next problem because of the computational complexity involved. Obviously, AI and machine learning are the prime technologies to be applied to highly complicated problems, such as network optimization,” he said.

The research will be applied to many other industries that rely on strategic location decision-making, including autonomous vehicles, robotics, and video games, Savoir said.

“We look at more complicated problems and customization. Managing a network of thousands and tens of thousands of drivers, aircraft, and rail cars takes quite a bit of complexity. And that’s why we set up a Toronto office – to build out the next step.”

Toronto’s tech hub

Toronto has seen rapid growth in applied technology research, and is now among the top locations in North America for companies seeking to develop new products. Government, local universities, and domestic and international businesses, have all made investments in developing the city’s and surrounding region’s talent base.

“The University of Waterloo and Toronto have really doubled down on getting students out with the right background. And they’ve done a great job at that,” Savoir said.

“And on top of technology, companies like Google and Netflix are also moving here, doubling down on getting the talent and training some of the talents for Toronto to become a tech research hub.”

He added that many other companies are setting up R&D activities in Toronto: Twitter, Meta, Microsoft and Pinterest included.

Female-led team

Savoir said the company is expecting to grow to between 70 and 100 people by the middle of 2023. However, 12 people are working in the office now, and 91 percent of the team is female.

Even though Quintus has deliberate internal efforts to provide a balanced, diverse work environment where people of all genders and minorities are represented, a female-led R&D office was not a conscious initiative, Savoir said.

“The technology industry is notoriously bad at hiring females, especially in STEM positions. But when we were interviewing, we found that the best candidates were female. It just happened to be so. We made a somewhat conscious effort to ensure a balance, but the best candidates were all female. And we, of course, value that,” he noted.

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