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Roundup for April 2024 – Communitech

10 PRINT "Lessons from Commodore 64’s legacy "; 

Gen X founders felt a wave of nostalgia when former Commodore executive Robert Lane visited the Communitech Hub on April 1. Lane worked for the company when it introduced the Commodore 64, which revolutionized the personal computer market with its PCs, a keyboard and a CPU combined in that hard-to-forget beige-coloured computer. 

Lane’s advice for founders (whether they’re Gen X or Gen Alpha): “Stick to your core, get some good advice, and know when to get out. Don’t sell out too soon, and sell out for the right reasons.”

Prioritizing Ontario-based startups

Helping Ontario-based companies access more government and public sector procurement opportunities is the goal of the Building Ontario Businesses Initiative Act (BOBIA), a new regulation order that went into effect April 1. The regulation mandates that the province’s public sector prioritize Ontario-based businesses when procuring goods and services.

“Ontario businesses should benefit from the investments of its own government,” said Minister Caroline Mulroney, President of the Treasury board in a news release. “Prioritizing Ontario-made products and services will help protect the supply chain, create good paying jobs and rebuild the province’s economy.”

Miovision CEO Kurtis McBride said while the regulation is a step in the right direction, all levels of government need to do more to support Canadian startups.

“We need to think big,” said Kurtis McBride, CEO of Miovision. “BOBI is a great step, but it’s a tactic. We need a vision and a strategy for this country. Let’s start local.”

Inspired to save lives

Personal experiences are some of the most profound inspirations for founders. For AWOS co-founder Sabrina Percher, her husband’s near-death experience during a flash flood in Saudi Arabia showed her a critical gap in automotive safety.

“Cars aren’t designed to save us in a submersion. We only have one minute to get out of the vehicle. There’s just no time to waste,” Percher said.

Percher and co-founders Mike Percher, Shawn-Patrick Percher and Aram Amassian started Automatic Window Opening Systems (AWOS) Technologies to develop a vehicle escape system that automatically lowers windows and connects to emergency services, giving drivers and passengers a way to escape.

“A car equipped with AWOS is always on alert and takes the human guess work out of the equation to make sure all occupants can get out safely,” said Percher.

AWOS is using the OVIN, ElevateIP, Fast Track Cities and Fierce Founders programs to help with the product and go-to-market development of its technology.

“Our participation in Communitech programs is broadening our exposure to new markets in the transportation space,” said Percher. “We want to get AWOS in front of manufacturers and take a major step toward our mission of saving lives.”

IP, bacon and eggs

Founders and tech community leaders joined us on April 17 for a Communitech Breakfast focused on the evolving landscape of intellectual property (IP). Led by IP experts Jim Hinton and Alexis Conrad, the conversation highlighted data as a critical asset and potential security threat, requiring strong protection strategies.

"Your most valuable assets are intangible assets and data really is the object that you protect with your intellectual property," Hinton said. “Data can be anything that you have. It can be sensor data, financial data, customer data. These are strategic assets you have that your competitor doesn’t.”

Hinton and Conrad also discussed the challenges of data residency and control in Canada, stressing the need for a national strategy to secure data assets and foster Canadian ownership of AI technology. Conrad and Hinton highlighted the ElevateIP program, a federally funded initiative, as part of the solution moving forward.

“Canada faces a challenge: data residency doesn't guarantee control,” Hinton said. “We need a national strategy to secure our data assets alongside fostering Canadian ownership of AI technology. AI companies, in particular, rely on access to critical data – ensuring control over both is crucial for success.”

Making it easier to go green

Going green means more than recycling. It’s finding ways to make our daily lives more sustainable

Rainstick Shower co-founder and Fierce Founders alum Alisha McFetridge said consumers are investing in solar energy and electric vehicles and now asking what other sustainable technologies are available. Rainstick is a closed-loop system that sanitizes and reuses water in a shower to reduce energy consumption and improve water pressure.

“Historically, sustainable technologies and sustainable products have always had some level of compromise on the experience. People almost expect that compromise, so our customer education focuses on showing them that Rainstick gives them a better shower experience and reduces their energy and water usage,” McFetridge said.

Moving from showers to scraps, Ottawa-based Food Cycle Science has developed FoodCycler. The countertop-size appliance uses a Vortech-powered grinding system to reduce food waste volume by up to 90 per cent. Instead of sending a full green bin for composting, FoodCycler produces a nutrient-rich amendment that can be used as a fertilizer for home gardens.

Like Rainstick, Food Cycle Science CEO Bradley Crepeau said changing consumer behaviour is critical to making sustainable technologies succeed.

“No amount of technology is going to fix this problem. We're going to need to see some form of behavioural change to get ahead of it. That can come in a number of ways. At one end of the spectrum, we've got people wasting less food. It's certainly going to take a lot of spokes in the wheel to tackle this. We aspire to be one of them,” Crepeau said.

Other news

This edition of the Roundup was compiled by Alex Kinsella. Sign up to receive the Roundup each month by visiting communitech.ca/technews and scrolling to the bottom of the page.

"Communitech helps tech-driven companies start, grow and succeed. Communitech was founded in 1997 by a group of entrepreneurs committed to making Waterloo Region a global innovation leader. At the time it was crazy talk, but somehow this community managed to pull it off. Today, Communitech is a public-private innovation hub that supports a community of more than 1400 companies — from startups to scale-ups to large global players. Communitech helps tech companies start, grow and succeed in three distinct ways: - Communitech is a place – the center of gravity for entrepreneurs and innovators. A clubhouse for building cool shit and great companies. - Communitech delivers programs – helping companies at all stages with access to capital, customers and talent. We are here to help them grow and innovate. - Communitech partners in building a world-leading ecosystem – making sure we have all the ingredients (and the brand) to go from a small startup to a global giant."

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