"The new year brought a flood of new money into the Waterloo Region tech community, as companies large and small announced new investment rounds.
Topping the funding charts was Miovision, the Kitchener-based scale-up company whose traffic management platform helps people move through cities more efficiently. It raised a CDN$120-million round led by Telus Ventures, a partnership that will mean 100 new hires and international growth for Miovision as adoption of smart-cities technology and 5G connectivity accelerates.
From healthy cities to healthy humans, investors made a CDN$10-million bet on Nicoya, the Kitchener-based company and Communitech Rev graduate whose technology helps scientists produce medical treatments. As with Miovision’s raise, Nicoya’s Series A round came from Canadian investors.
Also securing a CDN$10-million Series A round in January, as reported in the Financial Post, was SkyWatch, a space startup housed in the Communitech Data Hub in Waterloo. SkyWatch, also a Communitech Rev alumnus, is making it cheaper and easier to order and buy satellite imagery.
In some holdover news from December, yet another Rev graduate, Toronto-based Ada, raised a CDN$19-million Series A round to expand its automated customer service business into new global markets. A fun fact that Roundup readers might recall: Ada and SkyWatch split the $100,000 prize at Communitech Rev Demo Day in October of 2017.
Rounding out the month’s investment news, a startup called OpenPhone – co-founded in Kitchener by a former Vidyard employee and incubated in the Tannery’s Velocity Garage – announced a US$2-million seed round. OpenPhone’s founders decided to stay in San Francisco after a successful stint at Y Combinator, a decision they explained in an interview with Communitech News journalist Craig Daniels.
So much winning
Cash of another kind, in the form of prize money, also made news in January. Seven months after the Leaders Prize was announced at Communitech’s annual True North event, offering $1 million to a team that could build an AI solution to combat fake news, 10 Canadian teams were named on a shortlist to compete for the prize.
Meanwhile, what was to be a $5,000 prize to the top finisher turned into $45,000 in winnings shared by nine competitors who all notched perfect scores in Communitech’s Code to Win challenge. The annual event attracts top students from across Canada, and this year’s version drew more out-of-province competitors than ever before.
With an eye on the calendar – specifically, to a pitch day on Feb. 26 – a new cohort of 25 women entrepreneurs entered Communitech’s Fierce Founders Bootcamp in January. After developing their skills, working with mentors and getting to know each other, eight participants will be chosen to pitch for up to $100,000 for their companies.
There are cash awards, and there are trophies – and when it comes to the latter, there are few more prestigious than the Emmy Award, which honours excellence in the television industry. Dejero, the Waterloo company whose technology uses the internet to enable live TV broadcasting from virtually anywhere, won a Technology and Engineering Emmy for the second year in a row in January. Dejero is in good company – SSIMWAVE, its Waterloo neighbour, bagged an Engineering Emmy in 2015 for its system to measure video quality.
On the move
The new year brought news that Jay Shah, Director of the University of Waterloo’s wildly successful Velocity incubator program since 2016, will be moving on to his next adventure. Craig Daniels sat down with Shah for a Communitech News Q+A about his decision.
Waterloo-based cybersecurity leader eSentire, meanwhile, announced that industry veteran Charles “C.J.” Spallitta is the company’s new Chief Product Officer.
IMS, the Waterloo insurance telematics company, opened a new North American headquarters in the city’s David Johnston Research + Technology Park. IMS, which Roundup readers might recall was acquired by Trak Global Group in late 2018, will now have more room to grow, and is currently hiring to fill a variety of technical roles.
Speaking of tech roles, they often dominate conversations about Canada’s talent shortage, overshadowing the need for seasoned business talent to take innovations to market. Meeting that need was the subject of a CBC report in which Waterloo Region tech leaders, including Communitech CEO Iain Klugman, weighed in.
Four tech-talent predictions for 2020, meanwhile, were served up in this BetaKit piece by VanHack CEO Ilya Brotzky. One standout detail: Tech now accounts for eight per cent of all jobs in Waterloo Region, far outpacing the national average of 2.4 per cent, according to a CBRE report released last November.
Flying high and diving deep
Visitors to the Communitech Hub are often curious to know why certain large organizations have opened innovation labs here. The Royal Canadian Air Force is one such organization, and in January, the people in its Flight Deck lab provided an answer. They told Communitech News how they were able to replace “the football” – a stack of administrative papers that flight crews used to carry on every trip – with a web app called Dispatch, giving some lift to air-crew morale in the process.
From the wild blue yonder to the deep blue sea, the folks at Kitchener-based Deep Trekker, maker of remotely operated underwater vehicles, released a year-in-review video featuring everything from a shark encounter to footage of its technology helping to clean up the marine environment.
On the environmental front, data from Waterloo-based network management company Sandvine was referenced in a CBC story about the negative impacts of streaming and other data demands, due to the energy they consume.
Sustainability, geopolitics and other global issues, meanwhile, have led to increasing calls for corporate titans to look beyond quarterly financial results, speak out and help lead the way to solutions. Communitech CEO Iain Klugman added his voice to those calls in an op-ed late in the month.
In other news
- Urban mobility startup Brisk Synergies, based in Waterloo, was acquired by Richmond, B.C.-based Transoft, which specializes in transportation and civil infrastructure software.
- AC JumpStart, a program hosted by Waterloo’s Accelerator Centre that provides $30,000 in seed money and $10,000 of in-kind support, named 34 companies to its latest cohort.
- Shopify Plus, the Waterloo-based division of Shopify, featured prominently in a Vox piece about the e-commerce juggernaut’s pursuit of Amazon.
- Toxon Technologies, a Waterloo startup working on internet-connected archery equipment, launched the BOWdometer, a device to measure archers’ performance.