Tech Roundup for July 2021

Written by: Kevin Crowley | 01 August 2021 | Monthly tech roundup, News

Olympian and former Communitecher Mandy Bujold and Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic hold flags bearing best wishes in the weeks before Bujold travelled to the Tokyo Olympics. ( Photo courtesy Mayor Berry Vrbanovic )

Champion boxer and former Communitecher Mandy Bujold won the biggest fight of her career before she even stepped into the ring at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 11-time Canadian and two-time Pan Am flyweight champ went toe-to-toe with Olympic boxing bureaucrats to overturn an arbitrary decision that would have prevented the pugilist from competing in the summer games, all due to a string of events related to COVID, pregnancy and postpartum recovery. 

The never-say-die Bujold went on to score an impressive win in the appeal ring, thus punching her ticket to Tokyo. She came out swinging in her opening match with Serbian Nina Radovanovic. The bout, and the right to move on, went to Radovanovic. But Bujold’s victory over the IOC poobahs is sure to burnish her legacy as a trailblazing champ who helped improve the odds for future generations of women fighters.

Own the Podium

Bujold’s passion and grit is a one-two combination of inspiration for Waterloo Region’s tech community, which has always punched above its weight. In the same spirit, Communitech is working with tech leaders to develop an Own the Podium strategy aimed at helping Canadian founders compete and win in the international ring. Stay tuned for updates this fall.

Big ’n gnarly

Speaking of Own the Podium, what does it take to tackle the world’s biggest and gnarliest challenges? A trio of keen minds think that applied ethical AI is the superpower of choice. What’s more, they argue that Waterloo Region has all the raw ingredients to lead the world in wielding AI’s awesome power for good. Check out the op-ed in the Globe and Mail by Communitech CEO Chris Albinson, UW Dean of Engineering Mary Wells and UW Dean of Mathematics Mark Giesbrecht.

Northern tech rush

A new northern gold rush – let’s call it a tech rush – continues as investors see a rich vein of potential in Canadian technology companies. 

Cybersecurity company Arctic Wolf Networks, a unicorn with a large office in Waterloo and deep ties to the region, announced a US$150-million Series F funding raise and a new valuation of US$4.3 billion – more than triple the US$1.3-billion valuation it reached just last fall. 

Waterloo-based Auvik Networks also struck gold with a US$250-million investment by private-equity firm Great Hill Partners of Boston. The funding gives Great Hill a majority stake in Auvik, which designs cloud-based software that helps IT managed-service providers monitor and manage their clients’ digital networks. 

P&P Optica (PPO), which creates automated inspection technology for the food industry, closed a Series B funding round. Dollar figures weren’t disclosed but the Waterloo-based company said the funding will help it accelerate implementation of PPO’s detection system in food-processing plants across Canada and the U.S.

More talent needed

The shortage of talent remains the No. 1 challenge for Canadian tech companies, a group of founders and tech leaders told Monte McNaughton, Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. At a roundtable hosted by Communitech, McNaughton acknowledged the talent issue and said it’s a key theme being heard by  Ontario Workforce Recovery Advisory Committee.

Acquired growth

Material-science company Trusscore, which is headquartered in Palmerston, Ont. and has office space in the Communitech Hub in Kitchener, acquired Calgary-based Westech Building Products in July. The move adds new product lines to Trusscore, which develops and manufactures alternative construction components for the residential, commercial and agriculture industries.

Miovision, a Waterloo Region company that uses computer vision, AI and analytics to help cities modernize traffic management, acquired Arizona-based Traffop. The acquisition provides Miovision with a solution to help municipalities that want to analyze traffic data from their intersections without the need to immediately install additional hardware.

And, in an acquisition of the top-talent variety, Montreal-based Inovia Capital landed a big fish as its next partner: Steve Woods, Google’s long-time engineering lead in Waterloo Region. During his 13-year tenure, Woods not only built the internet giant’s local office into a powerhouse, but gave generously of his time and expertise to build the region’s tech community, including through Communitech, as a startup mentor, board member and board chair. Woods was reflective during an in-depth interview with Tech News on the eve of his departure. 

Four-day work week?

Columnist Melanie Baker explores the origins, myths and future of the 40-hour work week. Spending less time in the harness might just boost productivity, creativity and general well-being. Retail app creator Tulip thinks it’s worth a try: the Toronto company with operations in Waterloo Region is testing a flexible four-day work week all through August.

Baker also shares her thoughts on residential schools and the intersections between “discovering” historical facts, ignoring such facts and actively hiding the facts. Buckle up for an interesting and potentially disturbing read.

Music that moves us

​​We all have a song or piece of music that really moves us, right? Columnist Alex Kinsella brings us a great story about Rufus John, a Kitchener musician who was deeply moved by last summer’s Black Lives Matter march. John has channelled that inspiration into the Freedom Marching Project, which recently received a Create and Connect grant through the City of Kitchener and Centre in the Square.

Sticking with the arts, Kinsella brings us another fascinating story about the creative power of collaboration. The Beasting is a collaborative artistic effort in which individual artists create their own components of a larger work. The project is based at 44 Gaukel Creative Workspace, the arts and technology centre in downtown Kitchener.

In other news

  • Waterloo-based cybersecurity firm Magnet Forensics won several categories at the 2021 Forensic 4:cast Awards. Founder and Chief Technology Officer Jad Saliba was also inducted into the DFIR Hall of Fame. 

  • Secure file-sharing company TitanFile, which was based at the Communitech Hub in its early days, has successfully completed its Service Organization Control 2 (SOC 2) Type II audit. Considered the gold standard for data security, SOC 2 is based on standards established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

  • Construction-software firms Bridgit of Waterloo Region and Boston-based Touchplan have announced a collaboration to help construction companies better manage risk using a data-driven approach to project and workforce management.

  • Communitech and the local tech community got a shoutout for their role in helping to build a thriving tech industry in downtown Kitchener. The kudos are found in an article by the Real Estate News Exchange about the transformation of Kitchener’s city core over the past 20 years.

  • Waterloo-based logistics company Decartes was mentioned in a BetaKit story about post-pandemic growth in the Canadian tech industry.

  • Shinydocs has been certified as a Great Place to Work via an independent analysis conducted by Great Place to Work Institute Canada. 

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Kevin Crowley

Staff Writer, Communitech
Kevin Crowley is a Staff Writer for Communitech News. He is a Michener-Award-winning former newspaper journalist with the Waterloo Region Record, and former Director of Communications and Public Affairs at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont.