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Sheldon Fernandez

DarwinAI is an Artificial Intelligence company located in Waterloo, Ontario, with organic connections to the University of Waterloo. Their stated mission is to “transform manufacturing by instilling trust in Artificial Intelligence”.

Using their foundational IP – the by-product of years of scholarship from their academic team – they’ve developed a differentiated offering for the Visual Inspection of Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs), which they took to market last quarter. In addition to traction with F500 customers (Honeywell, Celestica), they have a world-class team in applied AI, including Canada’s Research Chair in Artificial Intelligence, Enterprise AI (ex-Siemens), and manufacturing (ex-Toyota, ex-General Dynamics).

Tell us about yourself?

Sheldon Fernandez, CEO of DarwinAI, is a seasoned executive and respected thought leader in the technical and enterprise communities. Throughout his career, he has applied emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence to the enterprise. First, in his capacity as CTO at Infusion, the company he founded out of school with five partners that grew to 650 people. Then subsequently, at Avanade, the organization that acquired Infusion in March of 2017. Darwin’s unique technology is the byproduct of years of scholarship and is being leveraged in numerous industries, including autonomous vehicles, consumer electronics, and aerospace.

Sheldon is also an accomplished author and speaker at spaces including Singularity University, the prestigious think tank in the Bay Area, and he has written technical books and articles on many topics, including both artificial intelligence and computational creativity. He holds a master’s degree in theology from the University of Toronto, with thesis work in neuroscience and metaethics, and he also pursued creative writing at Oxford University.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Take a moment to smell the roses occasionally; like raising a child, ‘the days are long, but the years are short’ when running a startup.

What problem does your business solve?

Undetected visual defects in electronic products create excess waste resulting in:

  1. Rework that is 10 times the cost of the product.
  2. Lower overall gross margins.
  3. Shipment delays for high-quality products.

Automating this process using Artificial Intelligence addresses these issues.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

“The global shortage of semiconductors and PCBs, exemplified by the recent CHIPS act, has given rise to circumstances that favour disruption. While we were not the first to take note of this fact, it occurred to us that no one was building a product that combined Artificial Intelligence, hardware, and software into a system that was easy to integrate into the electronics manufacturing process. This is what intrigued us: by making it straightforward to deploy inspection units and analyze data, clients can install them in novel locations and enable completely new capabilities such as returned product verification, process auditing and retrospective quality inspection.

What is your magic sauce?

Our foundational IP – the by-product of years of scholarship from our academic team – allows us to do things with Artificial Intelligence that others cannot.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

Our long-term vision is to transform industries by instilling trust in AI. We aim to do this through our foundational technology that makes AI transparent and trustworthy.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

The downturn of the economy last year was a huge challenge from both a commercial and fundraising perspective.

Thankfully, we were able to complete a fundraise just before the holidays:

How can people get involved?

To learn more about DarwinAI, visit our website at or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter @darwinai.