Book charts BlackBerry’s journey; job cuts continue

BlackBerry on a copy of "Losing The Signal: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of BlackBerry"

Our best-read story in May was an in-depth Q+A with the authors of Losing the Signal: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of BlackBerry, by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff. In addition to providing lessons for tech entrepreneurs looking to change the world, the book reminds us how a once-tiny Waterloo startup called Research In Motion managed to do just that. The book’s release coincided with news of more layoffs, as BlackBerry continues to turn its focus away from a diminished handset business.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen discussed the company's ongoing restructuring at a local Chamber of Commerce lunch. Meanwhile, Andrew Reid, founder of Vancouver-based Vision Critical, weighed in with a Forbes post about BlackBerry’s contribution to Canada’s thriving tech scene.


Of course, no company can thrive without sales, which explains why U.S.-based software colossus launched a program to help Canadian startups boost revenue, in part through a partnership with Communitech’s Rev accelerator program.

That same sales imperative is driving an increasing number of companies to New York City, where they can receive mentorship and help in making connections through the Canadian Technology Accelerator, a program of the Canadian Trade Commissioner’s office. Tulip Retail and are among recent visitors to benefit from a stint at CTA@NYC.

Internet of Things + big data

Few other sectors in the technology world offer as much hope (or as much hype) as the Internet of Things and big data. The Globe and Mail sketched out the opportunities inherent in the Canadian IoT market, while the CBC offered a similar piece focused on Waterloo Region companies.

On the data front, Treasury Board President Tony Clement visited Waterloo to formalize a $3 million federal contribution to the Open Data Exchange, a Communitech-led initiative to build a commercial ecosystem around “open data,” or information held in government datasets that have been made publicly accessible. Focus21, a Communitech Hub-based company, is already working in the realm of open data, having built a web portal for the World Council on City Data.

Cyber security

No conversation about data is complete without a mention of cyber security, and on that front, Cambridge-based eSentire was among several Waterloo Region firms to make strides in May. The company, which specializes in active threat protection, announced a new European headquarters in Cork, Ireland, and is hiring aggressively.


Turning to hardware, Thalmic Labs continued to attract attention with its Myo gesture control armband, with a lengthy review in Mashable, and word that it had shipped 50,000 units as of mid-May. The Myo is now available for purchase through Best Buy.

Drone-maker Aeryon Labs, meanwhile, teamed up with its Waterloo neighbour, broadcast technology maker Dejero Labs, to fit an unmanned aerial vehicle with live-stream video capabilities. A Globe and Mail feature on Aeryon noted how Canada’s regulatory regime favours Canadian drone makers.

Tech Leadership Conference

More than 800 people turned out for Communitech’s annual Tech Leadership Conference, where the focus was on change, adaptability and thinking differently. Aside from the keynote presentations and breakout sessions, the conference offered several quick five-minute talks, including one by James Slifierz of SkyWatch, whose company aims to become the leader in processing the vast amounts of data collected from space.

In other news

  • Applications opened for Communitech’s second Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp, which offers $100,000 in seed funding, up from $25,000 last year.
  • OpenText announced it would trim five per cent of its global workforce of 8,500 as it focuses on increasing cloud-based revenue.
  • Ottawa-area tech billionaire Sir Terry Matthews addressed a Waterloo audience and delivered assorted pearls of wisdom gathered during his long career.
  • New York venture capitalist Fred Wilson shared a stage with Ted Livingston, CEO of mobile chat platform Kik, in a wide-ranging conversation hosted by the University of Waterloo Velocity program.
  • In its ongoing series on Plasticity Labs’ software that tracks workplace engagement, Canadian Business featured Cambridge-based phone and Internet provider Fibernetics, which it described as “what may be one of the happiest companies in Canada.”
  • Two years after it opened an innovation lab in the Communitech Hub, Canadian Tire opened a “digital garage” on nearby Francis Street to expand its prototyping and testing capacity.

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