Export program boosts tech company

By Paul Sjoberg

Tara Kelly is a self-described “serial innovator” with a passion for using technology to help people—and with a little assistance from a program to help Canadian exporters, she hopes her software will change lives around the world.

Kelly is president and CEO of SPLICE Software, a Calgary, Alta.-based company that also has offices in Chicago, Ill. and in Toronto. The company offers clients an artificial intelligence (AI)-based software suite with the ability to deliver personalized messages via multiple channels, including phone, short message service (SMS) messaging, and speech-to-speech technologies like Alexa and Google Home.

SPLICE Software has seen an impressive amount of success since its inception in 2006, and Kelly credits the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS)—part of Global Affairs Canada (GAC)—with being tremendously supportive and helpful in identifying opportunities to help her achieve success outside of Canada. Kelly networks through the TCS’s Business Women in Trade (BWIT) group. She says GAC’s CanExport program is a particularly valuable tool for Canadian companies looking to do business abroad. Her company received funding from the CanExport program in 2017.

CanExport is a five-year, $50-million program providing direct financial assistance to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) seeking to develop new export opportunities and markets, especially high-growth emerging markets. The CanExport program reimburses up to 50 percent of eligible expenses to participating companies, contributing up to $99,999 in matched funding.

“If you know you’re getting 50 percent back, that helps a lot,” Kelly says, adding she found out about the CanExport program from a Canadian trade commissioner in Los Angeles, CA. “It’s nice that they are supportive of the commercialization, not just the development of the technology.”

In order to become a global leader in the industry, SPLICE must compete with other businesses from known technology hubs around the world, including California and Eastern Asia. GAC—through its CanExport program and its network of trade commissioners around the world—has been extremely helpful in her efforts to find more opportunities to expand SPLICE in the international market, Kelly says.

Tara Kelly
Tara Kelly

“One of the first things the government does a really great job of, is just creating a network of colleagues and peers that are doing business abroad,” she says. “The matchmaking services that they offer are pretty sophisticated.”

 “The CanExport program is really awesome if you’re looking at expanding into a new country that you haven’t done business with in a significant way.”

Kelly previously worked in health services, creating reminders for doctors and health practitioners, where she found that such highly personal relationships should require highly personalized reminder services.

“Any organization that’s committed to a strong brand relationship with their customer really should be using a more personalized approach,” she says. SPLICE Software specializes in insurance, finance, and retail, focusing on large enterprise with the goal to humanize the digital experience.

One of SPLICE Software’s advantages, Kelly says, “is the data security of our platform and the ability to offer customers access to the right information at the right time without putting their private information at risk.”

In the 21st century, AI technology is rapidly becoming a regular part of everyday life. It is becoming more normal to be able to speak to your car, your refrigerator, your dishwasher, and other household appliances and have them speak back to you. SPLICE is on the forefront of this new technological movement, she says.

“We’re unbelievably excited about what the future holds,” Kelly says. While some people may worry about potentially negative impacts of AI technology, she is confident that computers will only be as smart as humans train them to be.

“I think that artificial intelligence is going to require human assistance for a significant period of time,” Kelly says, adding she believes AI technology is very valuable in healthcare and in many other fields, “as long as there’s a human factor present.”

Society need not fear AI technology, but rather should embrace it, she says.

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