They call this sweeping the podium. As autumn settled in and the leaves rained down in earnest, so too did accolades for Waterloo Region tech companies, which ranked first, second and third among the fastest growing Canadian firms on the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 list.

Leading the trio was ApplyBoard, with three-year revenue growth north of 12,000 per cent. Intellijoint Surgical was second and Auvik Networks landed third.

Deloitte’s annual ranking wasn’t the only one in November where local organizations shone. The Waterloo-based Accelerator Centre was given a second-place nod by UBI Global of Stockholm in its World Top 5 Private Business Accelerators category.

And the kudos continued: For the second year in a row, the Digital Finance Institute named the centre “accelerator of the year,” at the Canadian FinTech & AI Awards.

There’s no denying the impact of the Accelerator Centre and its UW sibling, Velocity. A comprehensive study of the economic impact of University of Waterloo conducted by Deloitte found that UW-affiliated startups have generated more than $2 billion in revenue and 7,500 jobs over the past decade. Related, Velocity announced that its companies and alumni have reached the milestone of raising more than CDN$1 billion in venture capital since it was launched 11 years ago.

Speaking of Deloitte, the professional services firm has shifted the locale of its its DSpace Lab, which had been housed at Communitech since 2015, to new digs just across the street. DSpace now calls 195 Joseph St. (the heritage site of Deloitte’s newly renovated office) home in order to accommodate a growing staff.

As Deloitte was moving out, Sonova, the Swiss-based hearing-aid company, was moving in, officially opening its corporate innovation lab at Communitech. The lab gives the company considerable local presence: Unitron, one of five brands that operate under the Sonova umbrella, has its headquarters in Kitchener.

And while we’re discussing corporate innovation, a new Communitech News column, called The Disruptor, made its debut in November. Penned by Communitech’s Chief Customer Officer Ian McDonald, the semi-regular feature will explore the best practices and pitfalls of large companies as they work to transform their operations in the digital era. McDonald followed up on his inaugural post with corporate innovation insights gleaned from a recent tour of tech hotbed Israel.

On the move

Kurtis McBride, CEO of Kitchener IoT firm Miovison, penned a strong piece in the Waterloo Region Record that explained why 20th century approaches to traffic are broken and why recent efforts by the region to improve the flow of traffic and people are examples of smart planning with the long game in mind.

Long-suffering rail commuters got some good news, meanwhile, as the Metrolinx board of directors unanimously approved an updated plan to bring two-way, all-day GO train service to the region.

Still with transportation, bus service in the City of Guelph is getting an upgrade. Guelph Transit has partnered with Waterloo’s RideCo. on a new booking app for its mobility buses.

And the province has announced plans to launch an e-scooter pilot program on Jan. 1; municipalities, writes the Record’s James Jackson, “can choose to participate by passing bylaws to allow e-scooters on municipal roads, and to determine where they can operate.” Recall that the City of Waterloo and the University of Waterloo partnered on a similar pilot that ended last summer.

Todd Bissett is no stranger to travel – of the long-distance variety. Bissett, a lawyer with Gowling WLG, talked to Communitech News about his unique background and practice, helping local tech companies do business in China.

The mayors of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge took to the road in November. Berry Vrbanovic, Dave Jaworsky and Kathryn McGarry and a team from Waterloo EDC spent a few days in California, pitching the merits of Waterloo Region to businesses and talent.

Thirst for talent

Acquiring talent continues to be a work in progress for local companies. With that in mind, Communitech hosted its Tech Jam event, which attracted more than 1,100 job seekers to Bingemans, the event’s venue; 68 companies were represented, seeking to fill 1,000 roles.

Some 150 recruiters were on hand at CIGI for a conference called the Art of Talent, which explored solutions for companies as they work to find qualified staff. Communitech News delivered the story.

One of the reasons for the talent shortage here is the amount of tech activity under way. CNBC joined the many U.S. news outlets in recent months that have realized entrepreneurs and companies are migrating to Canada, producing a story titled “Why Canada is becoming a start-up mecca rivaling Silicon Valley.”

On cue, count an Indian product engineering firm among those planning to set up shop here. VVDN Technologies says it will establish a Waterloo Region office and aims to initially employ 250 to 300 engineers, the Record reported. The company’s CEO said local talent was the drawing card.

Talent of all kinds is under pressure – workforce disruption brought on by technological change is a growing issue and, to that end, 19 Waterloo Region organizations, including Communitech, have banded together under an umbrella called the Waterloo Region Future of Work and Learning Coalition. “We are stronger together than apart, so have formed an adaptive coalition to research and test solutions that will help us to meet these challenges in our community,” said Simon Chan, Communitech’s VP of Talent, Academy & Future of Work.

Chan additionally hosted a breakfast with a future-of-work theme featuring Linda Nazareth, economist, author, broadcaster and Senior Fellow for Economics and Population Change at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. More than 130 attended.

While the future of work might be considered an emerging issue, a continuing issue is that of diversity and equality – it’s still often difficult for women to gain a footing or achieve a leadership position, a theme James Jackson explored in the Record.

Cash flow

Waterloo’s OpenText announced it is in the process of purchasing U.S. security software firm Carbonite Inc. for US$1.42 billion. OpenText shares surged on the news and the company now has a market cap close to US$12 billion.

Money appears to be flowing throughout the country. Betakit reported that CDN$2.48 billion of venture capital was invested in 126 deals in the third quarter of 2019, the highest amount invested in Canadian companies in any quarter. The investment trend is positive, too: Q2 was also a record-breaking quarter, with $1.3 billion invested.

Locally, Faire, the Kitchener-based scaleup, has certainly seen its share of investment, recently landing a US$150 million Series D, which put the company’s valuation north of $1 billion, the unicorn threshold. Communitech News followed up by talking with CTO Marcelo Cortes, who says more fast growth is on the near horizon.

There was some positive news for a one-time Waterloo Region unicorn, Kik Interactive, which has undergone its share of tumult in recent weeks as it transitions from messaging app maker to cryptocurrency company: CEO Ted Livingston tweeted that the Kin ecosystem has reached more than a million active-spending users across more than 80 applications. Kin says it has 14 million users holding its cryptocurrency.

And medtech startup NERv Technology is US$500,000 to the good, after winning the inaugural Entrepreneurship World Cup in Saudi Arabia. NERv was founded by a pair of UW engineering students, Youssef Helwa and Amr Abdelgawad.

Tech for good

Speaking of medtech, Waterloo Medtech, a local association of health-care and technology professionals, sponsored a seminar in late November that featured Steven Dain, a retired London, Ont., anesthesiologist who has been pioneering ways to improve healthcare through the use of technology, particularly at times of crisis when first responders have been overwhelmed.

Crisis might aptly describe the problem caused by climate change. Those working toward solutions will no doubt welcome developments at the University of Waterloo, where engineering professor Yimin Wu has discovered a way to cheaply convert carbon dioxide into a liquid fuel using sunlight, creating, in effect, an artificial leaf that may help reduce greenhouse gases.

Tessa Jennison, who works at an Accelerator Centre startup, is tackling a crisis of a different kind – homelessness. Communitech News contributor Alex Kinsella detailed how Jennison has spearheaded an annual walk called Crossing Trek, one that is raising money and awareness for affordable housing.

In other news

    • Bryan Palma, who joined BlackBerry last January as president and COO, has left for other opportunities, the company announced.

– This edition of the Tech Roundup compiled by Craig Daniels

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