Brisbane AI tech firm Max Kelsen eyes growth as Bain snares consultancy arm

Brisbane AI tech firm Max Kelsen eyes growth as Bain snares consultancy arm

Max Kelsen CEO and co-founder Nicholas Therkelsen-Terry

Brisbane-based AI technology group Max Kelsen’s consulting division has been acquired by Bain & Company in a deal that is set to increase the local company’s exposure to the global client base of the management consultancy giant.

While financial details of the acquisition have not been disclosed, Bain has settled on the deal that Max Kelsen co-founder and CEO Nicholas Therkelsen-Terry says has led to a restructure of the company to position it for future growth.

Max Kelsen has spun off its two product divisions, SAVI Surgical and PROPeL Health AI, which are not part of the Bain acquisition, with Bain only taking over the Max Kelsen Consulting division.

While Max Kelsen applies its machine learning (ML) and AI (artificial intelligence) in various industries such as mining, financial services and retail, the company has specialist experience in the healthcare and life sciences sector.

“We weren’t looking for a sale, but when Bain approached us, we could see that we could bring all of our capabilities to Bain while they could help us go to their incredible customer set across the world,” Therkelsen-Terry tells Business News Australia.

“We founded Max Kelsen eight-and-a-half years ago without a lot of knowledge in the sector. Since then, I think we’ve built a world class ML/AI capability, but there is only to a certain point we can take that on our own.

“For us it’s really about exceeding a global capability for AI engineering which is where our particular strength is.

“We’ll be part of Bain, joining their advanced analytics group. But we’ll keep what’s special to us and have a much bigger team to take that to a much broader set of clients that we could have on our own.”

Max Kelsen was founded by Therkelsen-Terry and Ryan McStay in 2015, both of whom had little background in the technology space at the time.

“When we founded the company, our thesis was that companies have a lot of data but they don’t create a lot of value out of that data,” Therkelsen-Terry says.

“Our hypothesis was that machine learning and AI was going to be the way that businesses would really see the value out of that data.

“In our consulting and management services team we work with businesses to identify opportunities where AI and ML might create competitive advantage or operation efficiencies for their businesses. Then we help build and deploy that AI into those businesses.

“As the sector has grown, we’ve added a third capability which is to actually help our customers advise them on the development and establishment of their own AI and ML capabilities. We’re there to help them adopt this technology and provide novel solutions for our customers.”

Max Kelsen employs about 60 people with half of them in the consultancy division and who will join Bain as part of the acquisition, while the remainder will remain with the product divisions.

“SAVI Surgical and PROPeL Health AI have been spun out by the existing shareholder group and we’ve put a CEO in each to run those businesses on an ongoing basis,” Therkelsen-Terry says.

“The reason that we did this was because we saw them being able to grow more effectively on their own without being part of a single organisation. It was an opportunity to give them their own life and leadership team.

“SAVI Surgical is our software that tracks surgical kits,” Therkelsen-Terry says. “Basically, the tools used to install implants in patients require a lot of human tracking and inspection and SAVI does that.

“PROPeL Health AI is focused on basically the secure storage and sharing of healthcare data to help people build and deploy AI algorithms in the sector.”

Bain and Company says that as a unified team, under its Advanced Analytics Group (AAG), Max Kelsen will help businesses unlock the potential of AI and ML.

“We are delighted to welcome the Max Kelsen Consulting team to Bain, and to bring their industry-leading machine learning expertise to bear to deliver even more powerful solutions to our clients,” says Roy Singh, the global head of Bain’s AAG.

“We are seeing growing demand from clients for AI-related services and engineering capabilities that will enable them to be early movers in shaping how this generational shift in technology could transform their respective industries.”

Therkelsen-Terry says that following the Bain acquisition, the Max Kelsen team will remain based in Brisbane from where it will serve a global client base.

“Right now, there is a huge boom in generative AI technology and businesses adopting those,” he says.

“Our aim over the short to medium term will be to focus on how businesses use those technologies to really differentiate themselves.”

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