SA AI startup Kriterion selected for Microsoft, Intel backed ION Smart City Accelerator

Featured image, left to right: Kriterion co-founders Ricardo Ludeke and Wihan Booyse (Supplied)

SA artificial intelligence (AI) startup Kriterion has announced its selection as one of 10 companies for the first cohort of Intel and Microsoft’s US-based ION Smart City accelerator.

The 10-month programme, which is based in Houston, Texas, kick offs next Wednesday (4 September).

The accelerator is hosted by tech hub Station Houston where Kriterion, already an existing paid member of the tech hub, was invited to participate in the ION Smart Cities initiative.

The accelerator will work with the startups to create digital and technical solutions to the key problems facing the city of Houston, with a focus on mobility and resilience.

Kriterion is the only startup from outside the US selected for the ION Smart City Accelerator programme

Kriterion, which is based in Midrand in Gauteng, was started in July last year by a group of five founders and uses AI and machine learning to help clients — who range from those in the mining sector, to those in power generation, oil and gas and telecommunications sectors.

The five founders are Wihan Booyse (pictured above, right with another of the founders, Ricardo Ludeke), Wim Booyse, Ernst Dreyer, Ian Theron and Ricardo Ludeke.

Ludeke — who is a former project lead and senior data scientist from SA AI startup DataProphet — told Ventureburn in an email today that the startup’s Kriterion Platform helps clients in industry to predict anomalies before they occur, prescribes remedies and forecasts degradation.

Business clients can use insights from the startup’s platform to drive business processes such as ordering parts or scheduling maintenance.

Both Ludeke and Wihan Booyse studied at the University of Pretoria’s Centre for Asset Integrity Management (C-AIM). Booyse’s research in particular was key, as it focused on the application of deep learning to machine condition monitoring.

The startup’s other founders have backgrounds in the IT and services industry, engineering and mining.

Ludeke said the startup pays a membership fee to access Station Houston and benefits from access to community events, mentors and support.

It is through its membership with the tech hub that Kriterion was invited to participate in the ION Smart Cities initiative.

“Three of the Kriterion Smart Cities proposals were accepted and these will be further tailor made during the incubation period starting 4 September, the result will be showcased on demo day on 4 December and when accepted by the Houston City administration implemented in 2020,” he said.

The startup will not pay anything or give up any equity to participate in the programme. Ludeke however said with Intel and Microsoft sponsoring the initiative, possible equity discussions “are not ruled out”.


Ludeke said since the five founded the startup, the company has been entirely self-funded.

He added that the startup is currently in talks with six parties that he said have expressed interest in participating in a seed round that Kriterion aims to use to gain market traction.

“Two interested parties are South African based, two are US-based, one is Moroccan based, and one based in Japan,” he explained.

The startup began generating revenue for the first time this month and Ludeke describes Kriterion’s market traction as “comprehensive” — with more than 45% of the startup’s sales pipeline already at commercial contract negotiations or pilot-phase negotiations.

OCP Mining Challenge winner

In June, Kriterion was selected as the winners of the OCP Mining Challenge, together with Morocco’s GSTS, Tunisia’s Enova Robotics and another Moroccan startup, Pillioty.

Ludeke said winning the challenge has given Kriterion the opportunity to work with the OCP Group in Morocco where the startup will provide the company with predictive maintenance solutions for their mining equipment.

“Kriterion also provides AI solutions for condition monitoring, power utilisation prediction and predictive maintenance for base stations to clients in the South African telecommunications and Internet of Things (IoT) space.

US tech publication Innovation Map reported in an article yesterday (28 August) that the ION Smart City accelerator will hold a demo day on 4 December, after which participants will embark on a pilot programme with the city of Houston between January and June.

The other startups selected for the cohort all hail from the US. They are: Aatonomy, AeoShape, BlocPower, GoKid, Sensytec, SlideX, Umanity, Wyzerr and Reality IMT.

*Correction (29 August 2019): Following an email from Kriterion’s Ricardo Ludeke, we amended the article to make it clear that the startup doesn’t service clients in the manufacturing sector — but rather clients in the mining sector, as well as in power generation, oil and gas and telecommunications sectors.

Featured image, left to right: Kriterion co-founders Ricardo Ludeke and Wihan Booyse (Supplied)

Daniel Mpala


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