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Mindbridge Analytics Inc., has hired a seasoned Silicon Valley executive to lead the Ottawa company as it expands its efforts to transform the accounting and auditing profession with artificial intelligence.

Stephen DeWitt is joining as chief executive four decades into a career that includes stints as CEO of several startups and as vice-president with four U.S. technology giants.

The 59-year-old Mr. DeWitt will remain based in the United States, but spend half his time in Ottawa. He previously lived in Toronto in the 1990s while leading Symantec’s Canadian business. Mr. DeWitt replaces interim CEO Bill Hewitt, who joined last year after Boston growth equity firm PSG Equity LLC led a US$60-million investment into Mindbridge. Mr. Hewitt will remain on the board.

“AI is becoming topic number one for every CEO, chief technology officer and chief financial officer,” Mr. Hewitt said in an interview. “We wanted someone who really understood what that meant, the importance of defining an emerging market and how to make sure customers understood that value. We feel like we’ve gotten all those things” with Mr. DeWitt.

Mindbridge’s software helps auditors automatically review all accounting entries in an assignment, flagging irregularities or questionable entries for them to examine. By comparison, human auditors typically review just a fraction of entries and may miss mistakes or misdeeds.

The company last spring struck a global deal with KPMG International Ltd. to incorporate Mindbridge’s AI tools into the professional services giant’s digital accounting platform. After initially pursuing audit firms, Mindbridge also began selling its tools to enterprises 18 months ago to use for their corporate audits. It now has between 25 and 50 such clients, including Chevron Corp. CVX-N, and generates revenues in the mid-single-digit millions of dollars from that line of business.

Overall annual revenues now top $30-million after expanding by between 30 per cent and 50 per cent in 2023. Mindbridge, which is profitable on an operating basis, has also increased revenue from existing customers by close to 20 per cent year over year, a mark of success in the software trade.

“This is a high-growth animal,” Mr. DeWitt said. “AI has come through the hype cycle and every C-suite in every large enterprise is operationalizing AI across every function.”

Mindbridge was founded in 2015 by entrepreneur Solon Angel, who was convinced AI could help modernize the audit and accounting professions. He brought on veteran Ottawa tech entrepreneur Eli Fathi, who was smitten by the opportunity. Mr. Fathi joined as CEO, recruiting chief technology officer Robin Grosset, former chief architect with IBM’s Watson Analytics Group. Mr. Angel became chief impact officer and left Mindbridge last year to start another company.

By 2017, Mindbridge had 20 audit customers and emerged as one of Canada’s most promising AI companies, raising $42.3-million in investor capital and government funding from 2017 to 2019.

But it lacked focus pinpointing what clients to pursue, and cautious auditors were often hesitant about adopting new technology. Mindbridge also experienced turnover, including the quick exit of two high-profile executives it recruited in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic hit revenues in 2020 and the company cut staff.

Mindbridge’s fortunes improved after it hired veteran software sales executive Leyton Perris to succeed Mr. Fathi in 2021 (Mr. Fathi is now chairman). Mr. Perris focused on aggressively pursuing sales, but avoided overhiring staff. When a downturn came in late 2021, Mindbridge didn’t have to cut jobs, as other tech companies did.

Mr. DeWitt, a Chicago native, earned an economics degree at Babson College, where he was a member of the golf team. He started his first company when he was 18, later selling it to Adobe Inc.

He joined Symantec in 1988, became vice-president of worldwide marketing, then left for a vice-president role at Cisco Systems Inc. in 1996 during the networking company’s dot-com-boom-fuelled ascent. He joined Cobalt Networks in 1998, took it public in 1999 and sold the company to Sun Microsystems Inc. for US$2-billion a year later.

After a brief stint with the acquirer, he joined other ex-Sun employees to lead server hardware startup Azul Systems in 2002. Sun sued Azul for patent infringement; the parties settled with Sun receiving 5 per cent of Azul.

Mr. DeWitt spent more than five years as a senior vice-president with Hewlett-Packard then led human resources software startup WorkMarket Inc. from 2014 until it was sold to ADP in 2018 for US$125-million. His last CEO gig was with CloudBees, a San Jose, Calif., software delivery tools company. He joined in 2021 and raised US$150-million, but left after 16 months for what he described in a blog post only as “difficult and deeply personal” reasons.

Asked about his decision to join Mindbridge, Mr. DeWitt said: “I’ve spent 30 years bringing crazy transformation technology into enterprises. I think it’s a good marriage.”

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