Media release

‘Fake news’ meets real adversary as $1M Leaders Prize awarded to Canadian AI solution

Cash prize won by Bill Wu of Ava

KITCHENER, ONT., September 10, 2020 — Communitech, in conjunction with The Leaders Fund, Schulich Foundation and University of Waterloo, is pleased to announce that Bill (Yu) Wu, of the team Ava, has been selected as the winner of the $1-million Leaders Prize. For this first-of-its-kind competition, Bill developed and submitted a solution that used artificial intelligence (AI) to solve a global problem that has been undermining democracies across the globe: ‘fake news’ and the spread of misinformation.

“This was a definite surprise … I thought there were many strong solutions put forward in this competition,” said Bill Wu, winner of the $1-million Leaders Prize. “I’ve always wanted to work on something that I’m good at but that would have a positive impact on the world … I’ve always been interested in AI, and now I plan to continue to explore my interests in this field in a truly impactful way.”

As a result of extensive judging from a panel of Canadian industry experts, Wu’s solution received the top-rated scores for the accuracy of its AI-based fact-checking solution. The Leaders Prize Competition received submissions from more than 150 team applicants since the competition was announced onstage at Communitech’s True North Festival in June 2019. 

 

“While we anticipated that the Leaders Prize would be a great opportunity to showcase Canada’s leadership in AI, we did not expect that the world would face a global pandemic – and a flood of related fake news – in the final stretch of the competition,” said Iain Klugman, CEO of Communitech, the innovation hub in Waterloo Region. “The calibre of submissions and remarkable talent atop the Leaders Prize scoreboard truly exceeded our expectations and made us even more proud of the Canadian tech community.”

 

In Phase 1 of the competition, teams from across Canada submitted solutions that automatically verified a series of claims, flagging whether they were true, partly true or false, in addition to providing evidence to support each determination. In Phase 2, the solutions also had to provide evidence to support the truth rating and text explanation for each claim. The top prize was then awarded to the most effective AI-based fact-checking solution.

 

"We would like to congratulate Yu Wu of Ava for winning the inaugural Leaders Prize and tackling Fake News, a problem of great significance,” said David Stein, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Leaders Fund. “We look forward to getting this solution into the marketplace where it can play an important role in combating the spread of fake news.”

 

Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo, said the victory for Wu marks an exciting milestone not only for the Leaders Prize as it wraps a successful first year—but for the nation. “Throughout this competition, it has become abundantly clear that Canada’s emerging leaders in technology and innovation are also poised to lead the world in many other important ways—shaping the future of information sharing, data, and democracy itself.”

 

In addition to the founding partners, the Leaders Prize competition was generously supported by our partners including CIBC, Cisco, Desjardins, Politifact, Thomson Reuters, Wawanesa, Borealis AI and the Vector Institute. More information on the competition can be found at: Leadersprize.ca / Prixleaders.ca.

 

- 30 -

 

For more information or media inquiries, please contact:

 

Candace Beres

Manager, Public Relations, Communitech

905-536-0311

candace.beres@communitech.ca

 

About Communitech

 

Communitech was founded in 1997 by a group of entrepreneurs committed to making Waterloo Region a global innovation leader. At the time it was crazy talk, but somehow this community managed to pull it off. Today, Communitech is a public-private innovation hub that supports a community of more than 1,400 companies — from startups to scale-ups to large global players. 

 

Communitech helps tech companies start, grow and succeed in three distinct ways.

 

  • Communitech is a place – the centre of gravity for entrepreneurs and innovators. A clubhouse for building cool tech and great companies.
  • Communitech delivers programs – helping companies at all stages with access to capital, customers and talent. We are here to help them grow and innovate.
  • Communitech partners in building a world-leading ecosystem – making sure we have all the ingredients (and the brand) to help companies go from a small startup to a global giant.

 

About Schulich Foundation

 

Founded by leading businessman and philanthropist Seymour Schulich, The Schulich Foundation is one of Canada’s largest foundations. They have donated over $350 million, with a focus on scholarships, education, and health care centers. The Schulich Foundation is investing heavily to create the next generation of technology leaders.

 

About Leaders Fund

 

Leaders Fund is a leading venture capital firm investing in high growth enterprise software companies. Their $100 million fund has made investments in Canada, USA, and Israel. They use their experience successfully building and exiting nine software companies to help entrepreneurs build world-class enterprises.

 

About University of Waterloo

 

University of Waterloo is Canada’s top innovation university. With more than 40,000 students we are home to the world's largest co-operative education system of its kind. Our unmatched entrepreneurial culture, combined with an intensive focus on research, powers one of the top innovation hubs in the world. Find out more at uwaterloo.ca