Clearpath raises $14M to expand robotics business


Growth-stage investment continued to top the news agenda in March, and Clearpath Robotics led the way in raising a C$14-million Series A round. The Kitchener-based company plans to expand beyond rugged autonomous vehicles and into industrial robotics, while maintaining its commitment to ethical use of its technology. Given that investors treated Clearpath like it "had the plague" when four University of Waterloo mechatronics classmates founded the company in 2009, the funding marks an evolution in sentiment towards hardware and robotics.


As the latest in a recent string of growth rounds, it also suggests increased investor acceptance of founders who decide to build their companies here instead of at the epicentre of venture capital, Silicon Valley, says Shaunvir Sidhu of iNovia Capital. Sidhu, who represents iNovia on the ground in Waterloo Region, mused about three successful Valley companies – Pebble, Wish and Instacart – that could have been building towards billion-dollar revenues here if that acceptance from VCs had been there earlier.

Speaking of Pebble, the smartwatch pioneer founded by Waterloo grad Eric Migicovsky closed the month by setting the record – for the second time in the company’s existence – for most successful Kickstarter campaign, at $20.3 million. Pledges to that campaign nearly tripled in the wake of Apple's unveiling of its smartwatch on March 9.

In other funding news, indoor wayfinding startup MappedIn – which counts cloud-computing giant Rackspace among its clients – announced a $1.51-million seed round to fuel international expansion. The company has previously benefited from the FedDev Ontario program, which also announced support for Auvik Networks, Dejero and Intellijoint Surgical during March.


No doubt many a would-be entrepreneur has dreamed of Pebble-like success, but respected American investor Brad Feld and Ryerson University professor Sean Wise dropped by the Communitech Hub with some sage advice for anyone considering a plunge into startup life.

Those who take that plunge don’t only face the challenge of building a great product, but getting people to buy it. That’s the focus of Communitech Rev, a new sales-focused accelerator that announced its first cohort of 10 companies.

Two of those 10, MetricWire and PiinPoint, are alumni of Y Combinator, the California-based holy grail of startup accelerators, where Waterloo Region-founded companies have clearly made an impression on YC President Sam Altman. In March, we also heard about YC-backed Perceptiv Labs, which makes drones more useful to filmmakers, and Bonfire, whose software helps large companies manage requests for proposals (RFPs).

The source of virtually all Waterloo-bred YC alumni has been the University of Waterloo Velocity program, which held another high-energy edition of itsVelocity Fund Finals pitch competition during March.

Speaking of Velocity, the program's director, Mike Kirkup, reunited with his former BlackBerry colleague (and Communitech executive-in-residence) Brian Zubert to launch Score More Baseball, an app that simplifies baseball game scoring and tracking.


Turning to large companies, some of tech's biggest firms – including Waterloo-based OpenText, Canada's largest software company – deal in the realm of enterprise content management (ECM) systems, which sort, store and secure digital corporate documents. Now, a local startup called Shinydocs is adding value to ECM products by dramatically boosting employee uptake of these systems.

Waterloo-based connected-car company Intelligent Mechatronic Systems, meanwhile, has partnered with the state of Oregon to launch a North American first: a system that charges and collects fees based on the distances drivers travel on the state’s roads.

In spring, driving any distance on Canadian roads usually means potholes, but a student team from the University of Waterloo came up with a novel solution, called RoadWatch, during Canon’s Through Your Lens challenge at the Communitech Hub. Their system would use Canon cameras mounted on city buses to alert works crews to potholes before they become big enough to cause vehicle damage.

In other news

    •, a Waterloo Region-based edtech firm, made Inc.'s list of Coolest College Startups of 2015
    • Docker, the San Francisco-based maker of a cloud-based development platform, acquired Kitematic, a University of Waterloo Velocity startup, and moved the team to California.
    • Google for Entrepreneurs welcomed four new startups to its space in the Communitech Hub and bade farewell to four more, all of which had evolved considerably since joining the GFE program last September.

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