What a month! Despite some headwinds, there was plenty to celebrate in the world of Canadian and Waterloo Region tech.
Let’s start with the launch of Communitech’s inaugural Team True North. Held at the high-profile TMX investor day event in Toronto, the unveiling of our first roster of 35 exceptional Canadian tech companies put a well-deserved spotlight on Canadian founders. It also garnered a ton of positive attention for Canada’s tech ecosystem. To recap, Team True North is a data-driven initiative to identify, support and celebrate Canadian private companies that have the highest probability of reaching $1 billion in annual revenue by 2030. In addition to positive financial data, eligibility includes global ambitions and a commitment to “tech you can trust,” a major differentiator for Canadian companies in international markets.
As journalist Kevin Carmichael wrote in the Financial Post, we’re “on the verge of setting some foundation stones for a generation or more of economic growth and wealth creation.”
Look for an updated team roster in October.
The global tech sector may be sailing into stiff winds but many Canadian tech firms continue to tack and jibe their way to success.
One of those is Faire, the wholesale market platform and a member of Team True North. Founded simultaneously in Waterloo Region and San Francisco in 2017, Faire announced the opening of a new office in Toronto in June to augment its fast-growing engineering hub in Waterloo. In an interview with BetaKit, Faire’s CTO and Canadian-based co-founder Marcelo Cortes said the company has been preparing for the possibility of a market down-cycle by raising money when it could. In the past year alone, Faire has raised over US$1 billion in investment capital.
It’s a similar story at ApplyBoard, another member of Team True North. CEO and co-founder Martin Basiri told BetaKit that his Kitchener-based edtech company has the cash reserves to continue growing through challenging times. The company, which runs an international student recruitment platform, also benefits from a counter-cyclical trend in which people tend to go back to school when the job market is soft.
On the investment front, Inovia announced a monster raise of US$325 million for its early-stage Venture Fund V. The company, which has close ties to Waterloo Region through partners like Steve Woods and Dennis Kavelman, said it remains optimistic about Canadian tech and plans to continue investing in seed and Series A rounds.
Meanwhile, the national media have been reaching out to Communitech CEO Chris Albinson for his views on the current market. Speaking to CBC News and to the Canadian Press, Albinson noted the solid foundation that Canadian tech has built up over the past few years. He has also reminded founders that “Communitech is here to help.” For example, Communitech has been connecting young founders to more seasoned tech leaders to share tips on how to weather a down cycle.
Roll with it
Waterloo-based Descartes Systems Group is making the most of the current softening in tech valuations. The maker of logistics and supply chain technology has purchased three companies so far in 2022, including the recent US$65-million acquisition of Utah-based shipping software provider XPS Technologies.
Waterloo-based Axonify also made an acquisition in June. The provider of online training for frontline workers picked up Nudge, a communications and productivity platform that augments Axonify’s e-learning technology.
And in an interview with the Waterloo Region Record, Google said it remains committed to previously announced expansion plans in Kitchener. Those plans include moving into an 11-storey building that’s nearing completion on Breithaupt Street, and a proposed facility to be built next door. As Tech News reported in its recent series on talent, Google’s Waterloo Region employee count has grown to more than 1,400 from 1,000 in the past two years.
Canada’s two largest digital shopping-flyer companies joined forces in June through a deal in which Toronto-based Flipp acquired its biggest competitor, Kitchener-based reebee. Terms of the deal weren’t released, but Flipp plans to keep reebee’s office and its 80 employees, including co-founders Michal Martyniak and Tobiasz Dankiewicz, past grads of Communitech’s former Rev accelerator program.
Another Communitech grad also made headlines in June. Natasha Dhayagude, a finalist at the Fierce Founders Bootcamp pitch competition in February 2018, announced that her startup, Chinova Bioworks, has raised a $6-million Series A investment round. The tech-for-good company, based in Fredericton, N.B., uses mushroom stems that would otherwise be discarded to produce an all-natural food preservative that is vegan, kosher, halal and free of allergens.
Communitech partnered once again with CityAge to host a discussion about the Future of Health. The online event attracted a strong turnout – 300 health leaders, researchers, founders and funders participated from across Canada and the U.S.
Communitech’s “future of” initiative is designed to bring founders and public-sector leaders together to discuss innovation and to collaborate on ways to improve public services while promoting integrated procurement markets for Canadian tech.
Speaking of the public good, Communitech was an active participant in another recent CityAge event – The Data Effect: How to Build a Digital Society. Attendees heard how Canada can lead the world in talent, capital and trusted tech – themes that Communitech CEO Chris Albinson emphasized in his address to the group.
A rep for tech
Waterloo Region has a well-established reputation for tech and innovation. So, when an international technology conference like Collision takes place at the other end of the Waterloo-Toronto corridor, Communitech is happy to answer questions about the region’s amazing tech ecosystem. This year, we went a step further and arranged for attendees from Collision to come visit the Communitech Hub. More than 30 people – international trade reps, funders and others – took us up on the offer and came for a tour of the Communitech facilities and a lively networking lunch.
Speaking of this region’s rep, the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario has invested $10 million in a new program being offered by the Accelerator Centre (AC), a startup incubator located in the David Johnston Research and Technology Park on the University of Waterloo’s north campus. Called the AC:Studio, the new program will support early-stage startups across southern Ontario.
Subscribing to talent
A post on Reddit got Tech News columnist Melanie Baker thinking about the relationship between employers and employees. Specifically, whether salaries are the subscription fees that companies pay for their staff’s time and talents. Or vice versa – where employees are the consumers who subscribe to the opportunity to work for the employer. A provocative read, no matter which way you look at it.
In another column, Baker probes the unconscious biases that come into play during the hiring process. Even concrete data about an individual, including the person’s internet presence, can be misleading. In the end, there’s nothing like spending time interacting with a person directly to inform your hiring decision.
In other news
This edition of the Tech Roundup was compiled by Kevin Crowley. Sign up to receive the Roundup each month by visiting communitech.ca/technews and scrolling to the bottom of the page.