"Ah, the lazy, hazy days of summer. Well, maybe not so lazy. At least, not here in not in Waterloo Region, where a number of tech-based news items unfolded through July.
Let’s start with fast-growing Faire, a San Francisco-based company with roots and an engineering office in Kitchener. Faire (formerly Indigo Fair) was named by Forbes magazine to an exclusive cohort of 25 companies likely to become a unicorn, i.e., valued at $1 billion or more.
The company, which has more than 40 software engineers at its office in Kitchener, provides online purchasing for mom-and-pop retail stores, curating merchandise based on sales data and allowing stores to return the product within 60 days.
The company and its back story was featured on Communitech News in 2017.
Kik knows what fast growth is all about. The Waterloo-based maker of the messaging app by the same name – which generated a million users in its first 15 days – recently celebrated its 10th birthday. CEO Ted Livingston chatted about the milestone with Velocity Director Jay Shah.
Canadian medical technology companies, not least among them Waterloo’s Intellijoint Surgical, were doing a bit of celebrating with the announcement in late July of a pilot project that will see $20 million of federal money invested to spur adoption of homegrown medical technology.
The announcement aims to solve what has long been a problem that has plagued Canadian medtech companies – gaining sales traction in their home country. Intellijoint, for example, makes 90 per cent of its sales in the U.S. and Australia.
Intellijoint CEO Armen Bakirtzian told the Globe and Mail that he was “more hopeful about this program than I have been for other” medtech-related government initiatives.
News of movement on another long-standing problem – namely improved GO train service to the region – came with word that the province has begun construction in Toronto on rail tunnels under highways 409 and 401. The tunnels are “bringing us one step closer to two-way, all-day service along the Kitchener GO line, Ontario’s Associate Minister of Transportation, Kinga Surma, said.
And enhanced service is the name of the game for telecommunications giant Rogers, which announced a three-year, $1-million partnership with Communitech, and plans to open a 5G innovation lab at the Tannery in September.
Climate call to arms
OpenText’s Mark Barrenechea didn’t mince words at the firm’s annual user conference in Toronto. The CEO of the Waterloo-headquartered enterprise software giant told delegates that humanity faces a “disaster of epic proportions” if it doesn’t forcefully, and quickly, act to address climate change. The discussion launched a deep-dive session on corporate social responsibility.
Meanwhile real estate services firm CBRE unwrapped its latest deep statistical dive, noting that Waterloo Region landed in third spot among 25 up-and-coming tech talent markets in North America. Waterloo Region, the report said, has experienced a growth of 40 per cent over the past five years, behind only Tucson, AZ (90 per cent) and Hamilton (52 per cent). Toronto, by the way, landed in third spot overall among fast-growing North American tech markets, behind Silicon Valley and Seattle.
In the wake of the CBRE report, WaterlooEDC published a story pegged to a Bloomberg op-ed, making the case that circumstances are ripe for small-to-medium tech centres, like Waterloo Region, to blossom and give larger tech hubs a run for their money.
Speaking of Seattle, the principals with Waterloo-based education startup YourIKA have temporarily set up shop there. YourIKA was one of nine selected to take part in the 13-week Amazon Alexa accelerator program, following its engagement with the Accelerator Centre. YourIKA blends artificial intelligence with instant messaging to provide students with tutoring.
VeuHub, a Toronto-based startup that has a development office at Communitech, celebrated a $2 million seed raise. VeuHub makes an ad platform that connects video publishers, brands and agencies.
And a couple of Fierce Founders Bootcamp participants recently generated some funding headlines. Fierce Founders is a Communitech program that helps early-stage, female-led, tech companies gain a solid footing.
Halifax-based Coloursmith Labs Inc., which is led by CEO Gabrielle Masone, announced a $600,000 raise in pre-seed funding. Coloursmith makes filters for contact lenses that enhance colour vision for the colour blind. Likewise, Toronto-based Ratio.City, which specializes in using data for urban development, raised a seed round of $1 million. Ratio.City is helmed by CEO Monika Jaroszonek.
Kitchener-based Avidbots, which announced a US$23.6 million raise last spring, was featured in a new video by Communitech News videographer Sara Jalali, as part of the We Built This series. Avidbots makes a robotic floor cleaner for large commercial spaces.
Robots were the feature of a CBC story about a device being developed at the University of Waterloo that can perform inspections of bridge infrastructure more reliably and cheaper than is the current norm.
And Kitchener-based Clearpath Robotics announced it has partnered with a German robotics firm, Franka Emika: the German company’s robotic arm, known as “Panda,” is being mounted on Clearpath’s mobile robotic platforms.
In other news
- SSIMWAVE co-founder and Chief Science Officer Zhou Wang was awarded a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Multimedia Quality-of-Experience. SSIMWAVE, based in Waterloo, helps measure and safeguard streamed video quality.
- Kitchener-based North, maker of the smart eyewear called Focals, sold its Myo armband technology to New York-based CTRL-labs for an undisclosed amount. Myo was North’s main product prior to pivoting to eyewear; it was then known as Thalmic Labs.
- Four early-stage startups – Insula Medical, WatFly, Emergency Response Africa and YOYHS – were each winners of the $5,000 at the University of Waterloo’s Velocity Fund $5K pitch competition. Winners were selected from a pool of 10 finalists.
– This edition of the Tech Roundup compiled by Craig Daniels"