Year Established: 2008
What They Do: Mobile Software Solutions
It’s been a roller coaster ride as of late for Brian Hurley. The Purple Forge CEO has spent seven years bootstrapping his business, finding success servicing a variety of sectors and his company was anointed a “Startup to Watch.“ Now Purple Forge has suddenly shot to the A-list, after working with some of the world’s most advanced computing technology. In partnership with IBM’s Watson, the Ottawa company has created a mobile app for the city of Surrey, BC that can process voice requests. In essence, it takes on the role of a 311 phone service. The company is now fielding requests from other cities for the same technology, is on the brink of raising its first round of funding and Hurley believes they are just scratching the surface when it comes to leveraging Watson. Hurley spoke with IO about his rising firm and the Ottawa ecosystem.
Describe what Purple Forge does?
We offer customers mobile-first community engagement and self-service solutions. We have a wide variety of customers: governments, venues, telecommunications service providers, financial institutions, healthcare and membership-based organizations. Purple Forge’s platform and smart connected apps offer a comprehensive set of features that span web, mobile, wearables, social, location-based services, iBeacons, cognitive computing and the Internet of Things.
What is the problem you are helping customers solve?
Purple Forge helps our customers increase their community engagement, gain insights into the customers’ unmet needs and reduce customer service delivery costs.
How did the partnership with IBM come about?
We were looking for technology that would allow us to support natural language understanding and allow users to ask a question in the same way they might ask another person and get an answer rather then a list of hints or clues that a typical online search might offer. And that is one of the many things IBM Watson delivers.
Describe the experience of working with some of the worlds most advanced computing technology?
It is very exciting. I enjoy being on customer calls and consistently getting feedback such as “I am in awe!” Working with the Watson team at IBM has been great – they are wicked smart, motivated and supportive. The IBM Watson technology is very complementary to our current technology and vice versa. For Purple Forge, the IBM Watson technology is a stepping stone to even greater things.
What words would you use to describe the Ottawa ecosystem?
Supportive, friendly, sharing. I find people in the community willing to freely offer their advice, help and time. If they are not able to help they will often help find someone they know who is able to help. Even people who are outside of Ottawa, but connected into the ecosystem, will help out, recently Alain Bélanger from Novacap kindly volunteered to introduce Purple Forge to prospective investors for a Series A we are raising.
Which resources in Ottawa have helped you grow and scale your business?
We have benefited from the advice and support of Carleton University Lead to Win, NRC-IRAP, Ontario MRI and Invest Ottawa. We have also benefited from the advice and help of local business leaders such as Andrew Moffatt.
One thing never to underestimate?
The need to be focused on selling product. The need to be talking with customers to understand what problems they have and are hungry to procure a solution for. Technology is easy, selling is hard.
Brian Hurley, CEO of Purple Forge
Read more about Ottawa’s ecosystem here
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