Spring forward

Traffic-tech company Miovision leapt into spring with a blockbuster announcement: a CDN$260-million raise that’s all the more impressive given today’s cautious investment climate.

The Kitchener-based company also announced the acquisition of Global Traffic Technologies (GTT) of St. Paul, Minnesota, Miovision’s fourth acquisition since July 2021.

Launched in 2005, Miovision now employs more than 400 full-time equivalent staff and has more than 2,000 customers in 63 countries.

In other funding news, fleet-maintenance software maker Pitstop landed US$3.8 million in seed funding through an investment round led by In Revenue Capital and Tech Square Ventures.

Pitstop is a 2016 grad of the ODX Ventures startup program, which ran in Waterloo through Canada’s Open Data Exchange, a federally funded partnership involving Communitech, the University of Waterloo, D2L and the Canadian Digital Media Network.

Done deal

The CDN$1.8-billion purchase of Waterloo-based Magnet Forensics by U.S. private equity giant Thoma Bravo closed in early April.

The deal, first announced in January, required shareholder, regulatory and court approval. With all three steps completed, Magnet has been delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Thoma Bravo plans to combine Magnet Forensics with Atlanta-based Grayshift LLC, another cyber forensics company that Thoma Bravo acquired in 2022.

The private-equity firm has said that Magnet founder Jad Saliba and CEO Adam Belsher, along with Grayshift co-founders David Miles and Braden Thomas, will each hold “critical leadership positions” in the combined company, while former Magnet Chair Jim Balsillie will serve on the board.

BlackBerry – the movie

Speaking of Jim Balsillie, the former co-CEO of BlackBerry gave a number of interviews around the Canadian premiere of a movie about the rise and fall of the pioneering Waterloo-based smartphone maker.

Balsillie seems at ease with the satirical nature of the film, which includes a reportedly over-the-top portrayal of him by actor Glenn Howerton.

“I’m aggressive. I'm competitive. I’m ambitious. I own that,” Balsillie told the Canadian Press.

No word yet from BlackBerry co-founders and lifelong friends Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, who didn’t attend the premiere in Toronto.

BlackBerry (the movie) opens in Waterloo Region theatres on May 12.

Healthy innovation

Ontario Premier Doug Ford paid a visit to Kitchener’s Innovation District to announce $7.5 million in funding for the University of Waterloo’s $35-million health-focused Innovation Arena project.

The provincial contribution adds to the funding previously committed by the federal government, the City of Kitchener and local entrepreneur Mike Stork.

The Innovation Arena will be located in a repurposed 90,000-square-foot warehouse at Joseph and Victoria streets, adjacent to the UW School of Pharmacy in downtown Kitchener.

The renovated building will provide space to startups, researchers and health-care professionals, all focused on commercializing health innovations. UW’s Velocity startup program will eventually move into the Innovation Arena from its current location in the Tannery.

Canadian moonshot

The future of automotive transportation rolled into the Communitech Hub in April. The sleek-looking, zero-emission vehicle is the product of Project Arrow, a collaborative effort to showcase the capabilities of Canadian engineers and auto-parts makers.

“This is a Canadian moonshot,” said Flavio Volpe, President of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, which initiated Project Arrow.

The futuristic EV made a stop at the Communitech Hub as part of a North American tour. Communitech is helping accelerate the development and commercialization of next-generation electric, connected and autonomous-vehicle technologies through a partnership with UW and the Ontario Vehicle Innovation Network (OVIN), both of which contributed to Project Arrow. 

Other local companies that contributed to Project Arrow include Cloud DX, Geotab and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada.

Cyber punked

Waterloo-based cybersecurity company eSentire has turned the tables on a cybercrime operation called Gootloader.

Gootloader leverages search engine optimization (SEO) to lure its victims – mostly lawyers and legal staff – into downloading malware disguised as fake legal agreements. It then sells access to its victims to other criminal groups, according to eSentire.

“By leveraging the Gootloader threat actor’s own criteria for delivering payloads, we were able to block thousands of IPs from receiving the Gootloader payload, significantly reducing the potential victim pool,” says Joe Stewart, who holds the post of Distinguished eSentire Security Researcher. “It was a unique approach that helped us disrupt the Gootloader operation and protect innocent users from falling prey to this dangerous malware.”

Founder focused

Janet Bannister is setting out to disrupt the venture-capital status quo with a new fund that’s focused on founder development.

The veteran VC has launched a CDN$22-million fund through her new company, Staircase Ventures.

Bannister is promising “unparalleled dedication to founder development,” including a cut of the fund’s profit and a host of supports such as CEO coaching, a health and wellness program and a “family stipend” to help cover unexpected child-care costs, elder support and other family needs.

“Staircase Ventures was founded on the belief that founders are the bedrock upon which all companies are built,” said Bannister, a member of Communitech’s board of directors who previously invested in Waterloo Region companies such as Plum through another VC firm, Real Ventures.

Secret sauce

What’s the main ingredient in Waterloo Region’s secret sauce?


That was the overarching theme in a panel discussion held at Communitech for the annual meeting of the mayors of Ontario’s largest cities.

The panel focused on the transformation of downtown Kitchener, including the evolution of the city’s Innovation District, which is home to Google, the Communitech Hub, UW’s Velocity program and numerous tech startups and scaleups.

As Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic put it, the “the secret sauce that makes our region a success” is the willingness of community leaders to work together.

Windswept Toronto

Speaking of secret sauce, the venerable Financial Times ran a story about Toronto’s growing tech sector and the contributions made by post-secondary institutions such as the University of Waterloo.

Despite describing Toronto as a “windswept Canadian city, once known more for its brutal winters,” the Financial Times noted that CBRE ranked Toronto as the third-best tech city in North America, and that Toronto ranks third in terms of having the most fastest-growing companies in North America.

As for the University of Waterloo, the article describes it as “widely regarded as a breeding ground for world-class tech talent.” And while one interviewee likened the university’s reputation to that of Harvard's, we’d like to think UW has its own unique brand.

Supporting talent                                            

Communitech organized a Career Connect day in April to assist tech workers who’ve lost their jobs in the current downturn.

More than 30 experienced technology workers spent a day at the Communitech Hub getting tips from job-placement experts, learning about entrepreneurship programs and networking.

Partners included TD, Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective, Conestoga Career Centre, Adecco, Artemis and Plum.

For those trying to shape their own careers, one of the challenges is being a reliable team player while not becoming a convenient dumping ground for work that others want to offload.

Columnist Melanie Baker offers some insights into the difference between pitching in occasionally and being exploited.

In another piece, Baker explores the importance of building trusted work relationships that ensure someone has your back when things get wonky in the office.

In other news

  • Sheldon Fernandez, CEO of Waterloo-based DarwinAI and a member of Forbes magazine’s technology council, published an article about the potential benefits and opportunities of linking generative AI to the manufacture of printed circuit boards (PCBs).
  • NuEnergy.ai has been accepted into a federal procurement program that allows Canadian government departments and Crown corporations to directly purchase the company’s artificial-intelligence governance software.
  • Kitchener-based OTTO Motors, which makes robotic vehicles for moving parts, boxes and other goods around manufacturing and warehouse settings, announced an expansion into the European market and a technical collaboration with Swedish robotics-maker Kollmorgen Automation.
  • SkyWatch Space Applications Inc. has entered a partnership with Urban Sky to accelerate Urban Sky's commercial data distribution strategy through SkyWatch’s data management and distribution platform.
  • Waterloo-based clean-energy platform EnPowered says David Energy is the first U.S. energy supplier to join EnPowered’s Accelerator Partner Program to facilitate on-bill financing for U.S. customers.
  • MyCase, a cloud-based legal case-management system, has entered a partnership with Legalboards, an agile matter-management platform, to streamline legal case-management and improve productivity. 

This edition of the Roundup 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.