Let’s get it out of the way: November was a rough month for tech workers globally, and the Canadian and Waterloo Region communities felt the pain, too.
While international behemoths like Twitter, Meta and Amazon were each laying off thousands of employees in recent weeks, smaller (but just as painful) cutbacks were taking place here. ApplyBoard, Faire and D2L were among companies to cut staff in November. Even Communitech laid off 11 team members, about 10 per cent of its workforce.
“Like many in the Canadian tech ecosystem, Communitech has not been immune to the conditions of the macro environment that we operate in,” Communitech CEO Chris Albinson told BetaKit.
Communitech continues to support displaced Canadian tech workers through The Help List, a roster of tech talent that helps connect skilled workers with companies that are hiring. And yes, many tech companies are still hiring. Check out the Communitech-run Work in Tech job board, the largest listing of tech jobs in Canada.
Down but up
Canadian VC investment slowed in the third quarter, but it’s still higher than historical averages, according to the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA).
The CVCA says CDN$896 million was invested across 144 VC deals in Q3, down by 50 and 25 per cent respectively from Q2. If you look past last year’s record-breaking investment year, 2022’s year-to-date numbers – $7.2 billion invested across 520 deals – are more in line with pre-pandemic investing levels.
One bright spot is early and seed-stage deals, which comprised 45 per cent and 43 per cent respectively of all Q3 transactions.
A little perspective
While our economic challenges are real, innovation advisor and filmmaker Dan Herman puts things into perspective with a short documentary about Ukraine’s tech community as it struggles to survive in the midst of a brutal Russian invasion.
The film – Made With Bravery: The Story of Ukrainian Startup Resilience – provides a remarkable look at how a thriving tech community rises above the danger and instability of war to continue serving customers, developing products and building companies.
Herman, whose grandfather immigrated to Canada from Ukraine, told Tech News that he hopes his documentary will provide Ukrainians with a platform to tell the world about the quality of their tech industry and the resilience of their people.
The federal government provided $2.4 million in repayable funding to help Waterloo-based P&P Optica showcase its innovative food-inspection technology to the meat-processing industry.
The company’s Smart Imaging System uses hyperspectral imaging to chemically analyze food as it rolls down the production line. The technology can assess food quality and the presence of foreign objects in real time, improving food safety and preventing losses from potential contamination or product recalls.
“Not only is the company an innovator in Canada and internationally, it is also a community leader right here in Waterloo,” said Wterloo MP Bardish Chagger. “Our support for the company’s innovative approach will help meat processors improve quality and sustainability.”
Eldon Sprickerhoff is in a reflective mood after running hard for more than two decades.
The founder of the cybersecurity powerhouse eSentire has taken a step back from the day-to-day operations of the Waterloo-based company. In an interview with Tech News, he talked about the early days, shared tips for aspiring founders and emphasized the importance of knowing what you’re good at and hiring talented people to help with the rest.
“I’m still very involved in the company but I don’t need to be part of the day-to-day operations,” he says. “I’ve never really been one for titles, anyway. When people ask what I do, I’ve always said I do whatever it is I’ve gotta do.”
Another prominent Waterloo tech founder is also making a change. Marc Morin announced in November that he is stepping down as CEO of Auvik Networks and handing the reins to Doug Murray, a Silicon Valley veteran.
In a blog post, Morin said he’s about to turn 60 and the timing is right for new leadership at the network-management company he co-founded 11 years ago.
Prior to co-founding Auvik, Morin was a co-founder at Sandvine, a Waterloo network company that went public on the TSX in 2006 and was later sold to PNI Canada Acquireco Corp., an affiliate of Francisco Partners and Procera Networks, Inc., for CDN$562 million. Before that, Morin was co-founder and CTO at Waterloo startup PixStream, which was sold to Cisco for CDN$554 million in 2000.
Material-science company Trusscore is dipping its toes into digital paint, a new technology that it hopes will disrupt the world of interior décor.
Using a combination of nanophotonic and electrochromic technology, Trusscore is exploring ways to create an ultra-thin layer of colour-changing film that can be laminated over the company’s flagship wall-and-ceiling panels and controlled by a smart-home IoT system. The goal is to change the colour of walls and ceilings with an app on your phone.
Trusscore founder Dave Caputo said digital paint is still a work in progress, but the concept aligns with the Ontario-based company’s focus on material science and its desire to disrupt the construction materials industry with more sustainable products.
Communitech teamed up with CityAge to host an international conference on Vision Zero, a Swedish-born approach to creating safer roads by trying to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries to zero.
More than 100 participants from across Canada and the U.S. gathered for the virtual conference to discuss how technology – everything from sensors and video monitors to smart-car and intersection design – can play a role in improving road safety.
Communitech is working with the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network (OVIN) and the University of Waterloo to help Ontario-based tech companies develop and deploy solutions that support Vision Zero goals.
Fill ’er up
If data is the fuel upon which artificial intelligence runs, more needs to be done to create common standards for managing and protecting that data.
“Standard setting is a really important space,” Anil Arora, Canada’s Chief Statistician, told attendees at an event entitled, Data: The Fuel for AI.
The day-long conference, organized by the Waterloo Artificial Intelligence Institute and Communitech, focused on data governance and the rapid rise of AI technology.
Communitech hosted a luncheon for medical-resident students from across Ontario as part of the annual family physician recruitment tour organized by the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce.
Dozens of soon-to-be docs and their families visited the region in early November.
“It’s a real opportunity for us to not only showcase the practice opportunities for family doctors, but also the community as a whole,” Ian McLean, CEO of the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, told CTV during the luncheon. “We’re selling a package of a place to raise their family, a place for them to grow their practice.”
Kitchener-based health technology startup TAMVOES is partnering with Grand River Hospital to test the company’s patient-empowerment technology.
TAMVOES aims to give patients more control over their health-care experience by providing them with access to their own health-care information and the tools to track and share care plans and appointments.
The pilot project is funded by the Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization, a not-for-profit that supports healthtech innovation and commercialization.
(Fail) whale watching
Intrepid columnist Melanie Baker takes a thoughtful look at the messy turmoil wrought upon Twitter by its new billionaire owner.
Is the whale destined to fail? The jury is still out. Baker says she would survive without Twitter, but “it’s been an anchor for a lot of experiences and learnings and relationships, and I would grieve that, as would many others.”
Speaking of companies in transition, Baker penned another column about the value of sharing company lore with new employees – even it’s just to provide context for how things are done now.
Science under 30
Brother-sister founders Danielle and Matthew Rose, whose probiotics company Ceragen is incubating in UW’s Velocity space in Kitchener, were named finalists on this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 Science list.
Their biotechnology startup is focused on helping farmers increase crop yields through plant microbiome engineering.
The prestigious U.S.-based Forbes 30 Under 30 Science list highlights some of the most promising young scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world.
In other news
Sign up to receive the Roundup each month by visiting communitech.ca/technews and scrolling to the bottom of the page.