The Prime Minister of Canada paid a spring visit to Waterloo Region and Communitech, and did so bearing more than $52 million in tech-related funding.

Justin Trudeau took the wraps off a program called the “Scale-up Platform, which aspires to help technology-based companies reach $100 million in annual revenue by 2024. The money will be distributed to Communitech ($18 million), MaRS Discovery District in Toronto ($17.5 million) and Invest Ottawa ($16.9 million).

The Prime Minister’s visit was one of several appearances from high-level politicians during April.

Two days later, Navdeep Bains, the federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, was at Waterloo’s Quantum Valley Investments, where he took the wraps off $41 million in funding aimed at bolstering local work in the fields of quantum computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, with $20 million headed to the Quantum Valley Ideas Lab, $7.3 million to Cognitive Systems, $6.5 million for High Q Technologies, and $7.2 million to Isara Corp.

Meanwhile, Bains’ cabinet colleague, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, dropped by the headquarters of fast-growing Kitchener scaleup ApplyBoard, helping them celebrate their growth to more than 170 diversified employees and a move into new downtown offices.

The provincial cabinet was represented locally, too. Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Laurie Scott, dropped by the Tannery, where she took part in a workshop related to the future of work, one designed to generate statements that will serve as a basis for brainstorming and problem solving during the upcoming True North 2019 conference, slated for June 19-20.

Scott’s visit trailed by just a few days the tabling of the Doug Ford government’s first budget, which was chock full of tech-related initiatives, including ones designed to help with the commercialization of intellectual property, increase access to talent and speed access to government procurement.

Talent play

Speaking of speeding of government procurement, that’s the work of Waterloo scaleup Bonfire. Communitech News editorial director Tony Reinhart penned an uplifting story about the way that Bonfire has teamed up with an agency called Talent Beyond Boundaries, which helps refugees find in-demand jobs. The story focussed on a Syrian refugee by the name of Mohammed Hakmi, who recently landed a job at Bonfire as a software developer after years living through unspeakable danger and hardship.

Another local firm looking to make a difference for people in conflict zones, Demine Robotics, was the subject of a Waterloo Region Record piece by James Jackson. Demine Robotics makes a landmine-clearing robot called Jevit, and will soon deploy it in field tests using live landmines. The company’s co-founder and CEO, Richard Yim, is a former University of Waterloo engineering student who arrived in Canada from Cambodia in 2007. “We want to give the freedom to walk back to children,” said Yim.

Code warriors

Fuzzbuzz, which was founded at University of Waterloo incubator Velocity, announced CAD$3.5 million in funding in a seed round led by Fuel Capital.  Fuzzbuzz makes a platform that continuously tests code for bugs.

And while we’re on the topic of Velocity, it announced that life science company PerkinElmer was in the process of relocating its demonstration lab to the Velocity Garage. The lab will give startups access to specialized equipment, software and expertise.

Waterloo’s Magnet Forensics was in the spotlight in April, featured by the Financial Post as part of its Innovation Nation series. The story highlighted the way that Magnet Forensics is leading the charge to help police combat child exploitation.

Magnet, by the way, was one of three Waterloo Region companies to receive money from FedDev Ontario in April. The federal agency announced a total of $6.8 million in funding, $3.25 million of which was slated for Magnet, $2.8 million for Nasarc Technologies Inc., and $750,000 for XL Tool Inc., which makes specialized equipment for the nuclear and automotive industries.

Still with cybersecurity, the University of Guelph announced it will soon offer a master’s-level degree program in cybersecurity and threat intelligence. The program is set to launch with the new school year in September.

Public safety is also top-of-mind these days at Waterloo’s MappedIn. MappedIn CEO and co-founder Hongwei Liu told a lunchtime audience at the Tannery about the company’s work with firefighters and first-responders, aiming to ensure they have up-to-date digital maps of buildings and thereby speed their response times during an emergency.

Yet another local e-security firm, eSentire, was among several Waterloo Region firms to get a nod as one of Canada’s Top Small & Medium Employers. Others included Vidyard, Dejero and HockeyTech.

Dejero and Axonify were additionally named to another top-workplace list, the 50 Best Workplaces in Canada 2019, coming in 22nd and 12th place, respectively.

Speaking of Axonify, the e-learning software company is in the process of expanding into Europe. Betakit reports that the company saw a 36 per cent increase in revenue growth in 2018.

The final frontier

A global team of scientists, including University of Waterloo associate professor Avery Broderick, created a world-wide stir in April, unveiling the first photo of a black hole. Broderick, who is also on faculty at Waterloo’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, said the image has helped shore up theories at the heart of modern physics.

Broderick wasn’t the only UW scholar to make the newsheets. Keith Hipel, a systems design engineering professor, was named one of five winners of the Canada Council for the Arts 2019 Killam Prizes. The award, which recognized his work solving complex problems in the fields of water resources and the environment, comes with $100,000 in cash.

And another big recent UW prize winner, Donna Strickland, was on stage at the Perimeter Institute, helping Women in Communications and Technology launch its Waterloo Region chapter. Strickland regaled the audience with the story of receiving her Nobel Prize in Physics in Sweden for her work with pulsed lasers.

A place to call home

Techvibes delivered a nicely illustrated feature centred on Waterloo’s TextNow, highlighting its recent move into the environmentally friendly evolv1 building – and which itself was the subject of a crisp video recently by Communitech videographer Sara Jalali.

Waterloo Region’s tech sector, meanwhile, continues to drive robust demand for commercial real estate. CBRE Senior Vice-President Peter Whatmore was quoted as saying he thinks investment growth in Waterloo Region during the next decade will outstrip that of the rest of Canada.

A piece of that real estate was recently claimed by BridesMade, which  opened its first retail location, at 108 Ahrens St., W., in Kitchener. BridesMade, a graduate of Communitech’s Fierce Founders Accelerator and Bootcamp, rents dresses to would-be bridesmaids.

And finally, a big player in real estate software, Cambridge’s Lone Wolf Technologies, announced the acquisition of zipLogix, based in Fraser, Mich. zipLogix makes real estate transaction software, which will be incorporated into Lone Wolf’s products.

In other news

  • Two Waterloo Region startups – Synergy Disc Replacement and O2 Canada – were among four chosen to move on to the next stage of the Pitch@Palace competition, which is an opportunity to pitch before the British royal family. The four winners, who took part in a regional Pitch@Palace event at Communitech, will next pitch at the national-stage event in Toronto next month.
  • Danielle Graham, the former manager of Communitech’s Fierce Founders program, has taken a position as principal with the venture capital firm Dream Maker Ventures, based in Toronto.
  • Emtek, an Indonesian media conglomerate which runs BBM, the instant messaging app developed by BlackBerry, announced it was shutting down the consumer version of the iconic app at the end of May. A paid version of the app, called BBMe that is still controlled by BlackBerry, will continue to be supported.
  • TD Bank, which maintains an innovation lab at Communitech, announced a partnership with Microsoft, and will now use Microsoft’s Azure product as a cloud computing foundation for a host of functions.
  • And, as many of you already know, we’ve had to let some people go from Communitech this past week. We’re doing everything we can to help people find new roles – and if you have opportunities open, please reach out and let us know and we can connect you.

– This edition of the Roundup compiled by Craig Daniels