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Tech Roundup for May 2022

Talent crunch 

We hear it all the time: Talent is the No. 1 challenge for tech companies around the globe. In May, Tech News took a deep dive into the timely topic, interviewing more than a dozen tech leaders, workers and industry observers. Check out our four-part series.

On a related note, many of the experts attending the annual Research Money conference said Canada is in the perfect position to become a global tech leader. We have a growing density of successful companies, we’re an attractive country for international talent, we have a global reputation as a trusted nation and we have access to international capital and markets. As Communitech CEO Chris Albinson told the gathering, Canada has a golden opportunity to build “the largest innovation hub on the planet.”

Trust was also a big part of the latest Critical Tech Talk, which invited five experts from various backgrounds to discuss ethical AI. Debate ranged from how Big Tech squandered the public trust, to how society “incentivizes” responsible and ethical behaviour among tech companies. 

Spring fever

Founders continued to crush it in May with awards and new investments.

Let’s start with a big shoutout to Ryan Denomme and the crew at Nicoya Lifesciences. Not only are they celebrating their 10th anniversary, they’ve also expanded their lab space in downtown Kitchener, made an acquisition (LSK Technologies) and were named Life Science Company of the Year by the industry association, Life Sciences Ontario.

Magnet Forensics (TSX:MAGT) also made an acquisition in May, adding UAE-based Comae Technologies to its cybersecurity stable. Comae specializes in cloud-based memory analysis technology, which is used to recover evidence from the memory of digital devices. 

Cash flow

Despite a tightening of investor purse strings, tech companies associated with Waterloo Region have continued to attract investment.

Online wholesale marketplace Faire raised another whopping US$416 million through an extension of its Series G round. The follow-on funding more than doubled the US$400 million raised in the initial Series G tranche six months ago. Faire has raised more than US$1.4 billion since it was launched simultaneously in Waterloo and San Francisco in 2017. The company’s current valuation is pegged at US$12.59 billion.

Hats off to Alwar Pillai, an alum of Communitech’s Fierce Founders program, and her team at Toronto-based Fable Tech Labs. The startup, which helps clients make their digital products easier to use by people with accessibility challenges, announced a US$10.5-million raise. The company also launched a new platform.

Paidiem, which provides payment solutions for gig and freelance workers, closed an oversubscribed seed round. As part of the financing, the Kitchener-based startup also announced a new credit partnership that provides access to more than $100 million to support its customers' financing needs.

Looking Canada-wide, there were 196 VC deals totalling $4.5 billion in the first three months of 2022, the second-highest quarterly VC total ever (the highest was $5.2 billion in Q2 of 2021), according to the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association. On the private equity side, the first quarter saw $1.4 billion invested across 212 deals, down from $4.8 billion in Q4 of 2021 but the second-highest number of deals for a single quarter on record (215 deals in Q4 of 2021). 

Coast to coast

Communitech CEO Chris Albinson was the featured expert on the Business in Vancouver (BIV) podcast. Talking about the state of the tech sector, Albinson addressed everything from talent to immigration, capital and the huge opportunity for Canada to play a leading role in global tech.

Communitech was an active participant in the CEO Summit for Canada’s Tech Network. Held at the Innovation Factory space at the McMaster Innovation Park in Hamilton, the leaders of Canada’s tech hubs spent two days sharing best practices and strategizing ways to collaborate to serve founders and strengthen Canada’s tech sector.

Hello & goodbye

Employee churn is common in the tech biz. Newcomers join the team, they work hard for a couple of years and then move on to new challenges. M-Theory columnist Melanie Baker explores this phenomenon with a focus on creating stimulating work environments that push employees to do their best work and seek growth opportunities within or without the organization.

In another column, Baker compares job ads to dating profiles. The key learning? Honesty from the get-go is the foundation for a successful relationship.

In other news

  • Waterloo-based Cognitive Systems, which uses wi-fi signals for motion-sensing technology, has released a new product: Caregiver Aware, which helps with the remote care and monitoring of elderly people and others who live alone.
  • Voyce garnered media attention in May with its on-demand language-translation service for hospital settings. Both the Waterloo Region Record and Ottawa’s CityNews outlet ran stories about how Voyce uses tablet devices and on-call translators to help patients, nurses and doctors communicate in 240 languages and dialects.
  • Also making headlines was BitBakery Software, which has developed an app to help homeowners adjust to new municipal lawn-watering rules. The app tells you what day of the week you’re allowed to water your lawn, and whether your lawn actually needs watering this week.
  • Green Brick Labs was also in the news. The Kitchener-based i-gaming platform is offering employees a four-day work week, a perk that’s growing more popular as tech companies adapt to remote work and the red-hot competition for talent.
  • Waterloo-based P&P Optica, which makes quality control scanning technology for the food industry, was cited in an article about food safety in a recent issue of Canadian Food Business.
  • Discovery app-maker Driftscape has released more than 50 audio tours for the City of Toronto as part of the ArtworxTO initiative, a year-long celebration of public art. Each tour offers users audio, video, image and text profiles of the city's sculptural and mural landscapes.
  • D2L (TSX:DTOL) continues to build intelligent technologies into D2L Brightspace, the company’s flagship online learning platform. The use of artificial intelligence, smart workflow design and automation are helping educators personalize learning and adapt to the needs, activities and performance of individual learners, the company says.

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.

"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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