True North Strong

Canada’s tech sector is on a roll. Our founders have never been more innovative, astute and well-capitalized. This is exactly the right time to break out the amp and crank it up to 11.

To help Canada win on the world stage, Communitech CEO Chris Albinson has rolled out a new plan, the True North Strategy, which is laser focused on founders. We’re reinvigorating our programming to help tech leaders grow their companies faster and bigger than ever before. We’ve also set an ambitious goal: To help 14 Canadian founders reach $1 billion in annual revenue by 2030. As Albinson likes to say, “This is Canada’s moment. We’re True North strong. Let’s go for gold.”

By the way, the True North Strategy was the centrepiece of this year’s Communitech Annual General Meeting. The fun-packed AGM also featured special guests beamed in via the Roddenberry Room transporter. Check out the video to find out why Trusscore founder and Communitech Board Chair Dave Caputo had a sunglass-wearing baby strapped to his chest (spoiler alert: the baby wasn’t real... as far as we know).

Rockin’ the rankings

More than 20 companies with connections to Waterloo Region and Communitech made the annual list of top growing Canadian companies published by the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business. Waterloo-based The Canadian Shield, which makes personal protective equipment, ranked fourth nationwide with three-year revenue growth of 10,139 per cent.

Two companies with connections to Waterloo Region made LinkedIn’s list of Top 15 Canadian Startups. Waterloo-based edtech unicorn ApplyBoard ranked No. 8 while Toronto-based Ada Support, a graduate of Communitech’s Rev accelerator and co-winner of the top prize at Rev’s 2017 Demo Day, ranked No. 15.

The Toronto-Waterloo tech ecosystem made big gains in an international ranking of global tech hot spots, leaping four spots to No. 14 overall in the latest Global Startup Ecosystem Report by Startup Genome and the Global Entrepreneurship Network. 

Office or remote?

The market for office space is picking up as tech founders look past the pandemic to see what the future holds for the traditional workplace. Fully remote? Fully on-site? A mix of both? Tech News spoke to a number of founders and real estate pros. Many are hedging their bets with a wide variety of hybrid models.

Whatever model you choose, talent will be a major factor in your decision. The remote-work trend has turned the heat way up on the competition for skilled tech workers. The Logic is exploring the issue in a series of stories, the first of which quotes two founders with ties to Waterloo Region – Uvaro CEO Joseph Fung and Ada Support CEO Mike Murchison.

IPO rumblings

A report in the Globe and Mail (paywall alert) says that Kitchener-based edtech company D2L is preparing to become publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The story, based on unnamed sources, said the company plans to file a prospectus with Canadian regulators this month and start marketing the deal after the Thanksgiving holiday. D2L, or Desire2Learn, was founded by CEO John Baker in 1999 and now employs more than 900 people worldwide.

Pandemic innovation

If there’s an upside to the pandemic, it may be the way it has accelerated innovation.

Columnist Alex Kinsella tells a fascinating story about Stratford-based Ballinran Entertainment. The globe-trotting documentary film company was grounded by the onset of COVID-19. That didn’t stop Founder Craig Thompson from making an award-winning film about Wuhan, China using remote cameras and interactive media.  

Another example is Kitchener-based Avidbots. According to a story in Kitchener Today, the startup’s robotic floor-cleaning machines have taken off during the pandemic as airports, malls, hospitals and other large public spaces scramble to keep their facilities clean and to deal with a shortage of labour. 

Money moves

Digital-process developer FormHero, which recently rebranded to Daylight Automation, announced a US$12.3-million Series A raise led by RTP Global, Bessemer Venture Partners and Golden Ventures. The round builds on a US$2.26-million seed round in March 2020.

Meanwhile, health-care compliance company MedStack closed a US $3.1-million round led by existing investors Blu Venture Investors and TELUS Ventures with participation from York IE, Argonautic Ventures, Archangel Network of Funds, MFD Investments and Donville-Kent Asset Management.

Waterloo-based Magnet Forensics, which raised more than CDN$100 million with an IPO earlier this year, has acquired a U.S. company in a deal that boosts Magnet’s ability to recover video evidence from surveillance-camera systems. Magnet is paying US$6.75 million upfront for DME Forensics Inc. of Golden, CO., plus an additional US$2.25 million over two years if integration targets are met.

Talent talk

A panel discussion on the need to boost diversity in the tech industry garnered media coverage on the CBC. The discussion, called the Colourful Side of Tech Sales, was organized by Women Techmakers - Waterloo. Moderator Donna Litt, COO and co-founder of Uvaro, was among several women behind the recent launch of a scholarship to help women of colour train for a career in tech sales.

Work-life balance isn’t always about taking it easy when you’re off the clock. As columnist Alex Kinsella tells us, a lot of people recharge their batteries by helping others. For example, Cameron Redmond, the Executive Vice President of Sales at Fidus Systems, is a Partner at Social Venture Partners Waterloo Region as well as a big supporter of Food4Kids Waterloo Region, sitting on the board of directors and helping with fundraising. 

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t take a well-deserved break. As columnist Melanie Baker writes, taking regular time off – especially an extended period of time – is essential for your physical health, mental and spiritual health.

In another column, Baker riffs on the benefits of bringing your inner child to work. Although we’re often told to think outside the box at work, the environment isn’t always conducive. What if we talked about our favorite reptiles at work? Kids, argues Baker, have a knack for building relationships through fun conversations.

In other news

  • Lauren Lake, co-founder and COO of Waterloo Region-based Bridgit, has won a Maverick Award from U.S.-based BuiltWorlds, a service that brings together entrepreneurs in the construction and design industry.
  • Waterloo-based ApplyBoard earned more news coverage for repurposing its edtech technology to create a vaccine passport platform called
  • Waterloo Region-based edtech maker Knowledgehook is collaborating with global learning company Pearson. The project will allow users of Pearson’s for Grades 3-6 to access Knowledgehook games and activities housed within Knowledgehook’s Instructional Guidance System.
  • Neuvote, whose technology is used to manage elections, selected Syngrafii, an e-signature and video signing provider, for its voting platform. 

This edition of the Roundup compiled by Kevin Crowley.

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