The other F word

Failure is painful. Pain is hard to confront. Which is precisely why Sara Jalali’s recent video on the topic of failure, delivered in mid-February as the first in a series, had such compelling power.

Jalali, videographer for Communitech News, produced a crisply shot and edited piece centred on serial entrepreneur Brett Shellhammer, a 25-year veteran of the tech wars. “Experience,” he says, “is what you get when you don’t get what you want.”

The series will probe the mythologies and complex truths around precisely that theme – not getting what you want.

Confronting hard truths was the topic of a thoughtful piece posted to LinkedIn by Vidyard CEO Michael Litt, about what he described as “an image problem” faced by technology companies in Canada and beyond. Originally published in the Financial Post, the piece called for a tech sector “rebrand,” in the name of preserving tech’s place as a key driver of current – and future – jobs and growth.

Speaking of Vidyard, its 200 employees will log more than 800 volunteer hours as part of its “Vidyard Gives Back” program. Six Waterloo Region charities will benefit, including the House of Friendship, Food Bank of Waterloo Region and KW Habilitation.

The Financial Post, meanwhile, continued its Innovation Nation series, rolling out several pieces during the month, including stories that focused on robotics, AI, big data, and the growth challenge facing Canadian startups.

And speaking of challenges, North (formerly Thalmic Labs), reminded everyone that the road to growth isn’t linear or without setbacks. The maker of Focals smart glasses, with offices in Kitchener and a manufacturing operation in Waterloo, somberly acknowledged layoffs and, in the wake of the news, the federal government said it would freeze a recently announced $24-million investment in the company and seek repayment of money distributed thus far. The layoffs come on the heels of North announcing it had reduced the price of its eyewear from CDN$1,330 to $799.

Bells are ringing

Bonfire, the Kitchener-based maker of software that streamlines procurement, celebrated its official merger under publicly traded GTY Technology Holdings with CEO Corry Flatt sharing in the honours of ringing the closing bell at the NASDAQ in New York. The merger, which involved Bonfire being acquired for US$108 million, was previously announced in September.

Bonfire wasn’t the only Waterloo Region company doing some February celebrating. Kitchener’s DOZR, maker of a platform that links those who need heavy construction machinery with those willing to rent it, announced it had successfully completed a CDN$14-million Series A raise led by BaseCamp Equity Partners and Florida-based construction mogul Juan Carlos Mas. DOZR hopes to double its workforce of 20 within the next 18 months.

Likewise, Waterloo-based ProNavigator, which makes an AI-powered virtual assistant for insurance companies, announced CDN$2 million in funding co-led by MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund and GreenSky Capital.

And Stratford’s Powernoodle, creator of a software-based decision-making platform, closed on CDN$1.2 million in angel funding from investors in the U.S. and Canada.

Money to feed investments was the subject of a Waterloo Region Record story about iNovia, which has raised US$600 million in venture capital for two new funds. Dennis Kavelman, ex of BlackBerry and D2L, is an iNovia general partner; the company has invested in many Waterloo Region firms, including Clearpath Robotics and Vidyard.

On guard

Speaking of the Record, Terry Pender reported on the threat posed by social media to this autumn’s federal election.

And Melanie Baker had a thoughtful take in Communitech News about the tricky business of navigating education in a digital era.

Navigating potholes is also a tricky business this time of year, and to that end the CBC highlighted the work being done at University of Waterloo to spot potential road problems by harnessing the power of artificial intelligence.

University of Waterloo caught the eye of The Logic, too, where tech reporter Catherine McIntyre penned a piece flagging the fact that UW produces nearly twice as many tech founders as any other Canadian school (subscription required).

One of those UW-groomed founders – Kurtis McBride – is having an impact in Prince Edward Island, where his company, Miovision, has partnered with the city of Charlottetown on a pilot project aimed at reducing rush-hour traffic with the use of cameras and software that will adjust the timing of traffic lights.

And Miovision got the green light, as it were, to expand a similar project under way in Tucson, Az., from 30 intersections to 103.

Breaking news …

Founding faculty member Robert Myers is taking over from Neil Turok as Director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, describing the posting as “the opportunity of a lifetime” in a story in the Record.

Opportunity was among the themes explored by urban theorist and Rotman School of Management professor Richard Florida, who led off Wilfrid Laurier University’s three-day DRIVE conference for entrepreneurs, investors and academics. Florida talked about the impact cities are having on economic transformation.

And transformation was much on the minds of attendees at the Tannery Event Centre, who heard a panel discuss how society adapts to workplace change brought about by technology. The Future of Work and Learning event was the second in a series leading to June’s True North Conference.

Safety focus

Focus21, the Communitech-incubated software-as-a-service company which recently moved into new downtown Kitchener digs, talked about how it’s helping an Ontario agency make the province’s hospitals and long-term care facilities safer.

And while we’re talking new digs, we’d be remiss in not acknowledging the 10th anniversary of TextNow, which recently moved into a visually striking and environmentally-friendly building in Waterloo, as seen in a recent video and story on Communitech News.

Aaron Snow is central to improving the way Canadians interact with their  federal government. Snow, the new CEO of a federal agency called Canadian Digital Services, stopped by Communitech and took part in a lunchtime talk where he described his new role.

Governments continue to look to technology as an engine for job growth and prosperity, which is why Bill Walker, Ontario’s Minister of Government and Consumer Services, stopped in at the offices of Magnet Forensics in Waterloo. He announced “data strategy consultations” in the form of an online survey, the aim being to make government more efficient and help businesses generate opportunity.

In other news

International Women’s Day is around the corner on March 8, and with that in mind Communitech’s Community Relations Manager, Beisan Zubi, penned a thoughtful Tech About Town column about the role the tech community can play toward advancing diversity and inclusion. The piece additionally lists the many IWD-themed events taking place in the region leading up to March 8.

Communitech is a partner of Startup HERE Toronto.  This article originally appeared on their site.