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Tech Roundup for May 2019

June 3

Head of the class

International students represent a multibillion-dollar business for universities and colleges, and a boon to their host communities for the talent and funds they bring. When it comes to helping students worldwide land spots at their preferred institutions, Waterloo Region’s ApplyBoard continues to surge to the head of the class, fuelled by CDN$72 million in investment over the past year. The Kitchener-based company announced a CDN$55-million Series B round in May, following a smaller Series A raise last June, and aims to add 100 employees to its current roster of 170. To help accommodate all that growth, ApplyBoard moved into new offices in April, an occasion that included a visit from Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen. In 2017, ApplyBoard received an early investment from the ODX Ventures program of the Canadian Open Data Exchange, hosted by Communitech. And, in a late-breaking development Friday, the company’s work was cited as a key influence behind Conestoga College’s decision to open a new campus for international business students in downtown Kitchener early next year. The move will bring an initial 1,000 students to the region’s core, a figure that’s expected to grow to 2,000 within a few years.

Continuing its momentum in May after a recent Series A raise was construction software maker Bridgit. The company, among the first graduates of Communitech’s Rev accelerator in 2015, was the recipient of a $750,000 investment from the Canadian government via FedDev Ontario, and rolled out a new product called Bench to help construction firms plan projects and manage their workers.

Medtech startup and Communitech Rev grad Nicoya also received a boost from FedDev in May, in the form of a $2.57-million repayable loan, the Waterloo Region Record reported. The funds form part of $7.7 million in new investment that the company will plow into research and development in a bid to grow into the scale-up phase.

Movin’ on up

The global orientation of fast-growing startups such as ApplyBoard played a key role in the rise of the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor in Startup Genome’s latest ranking of the world’s top startup ecosystems, with Toronto-Waterloo climbing to 13th spot, up from 16th two years ago. In an interview with Craig Daniels of Communitech News, Startup Genome CEO J-F Gauthier pointed to Communitech as a vital influence on the region’s performance, calling it “a keystone team in the ecosystem.”

Kiite is a globally minded startup with a highly diverse team that works out of the Communitech Data Hub in Waterloo. Donna Litt, a company co-founder, was featured in the latest instalment of The Other F Word, a video series by Communitech multimedia producer Sara Jalali, which examines failure in the tech world and the mythologies that surround it.

Meanwhile, Toronto-Waterloo Corridor companies were thick on the ground at Collision, the annual North American tech conference that moved to Toronto to kick off a multi-year run this year. Among Waterloo Region entrepreneurs sharing their wisdom onstage were Vidyard CEO Michael Litt and Faire CTO Marcelo Cortes, who spoke about the challenges of scaling a tech company in Canada, in a panel moderated by BetaKit Editor-in-Chief Douglas Soltys.

On the topic of conferences, Communitech’s True North event is fast approaching. In anticipation of the June 19-20 gathering, the True North 2019 team assembled a list of five things you need to know about Thomas Friedman, the author and New York Times columnist who will deliver this year’s opening keynote.

Getting around

Transportation is a perennial hot topic across the Corridor, with greenhouse gas emissions amplifying calls for adoption of alternative fuels. To that end, researchers at the University of Waterloo have come up with a long-life hydrogen fuel cell they believe could compete with traditional fossil fuels, the Waterloo Region Record reported. Some of their UW colleagues, meanwhile, are exploring the potential of using food scraps to produce fossil-fuel alternatives.

As those advances unfolded, adoption of electric vehicles surged in Waterloo Region last year, with the number of registered EVs nearly tripling over 2017. Waterloo cleantech company FleetCarma told the Record that the local increase is in line with national numbers of electric vehicle registrations.

In two-wheeled news, scooter service Zip Dockless – developed at Communitech – was featured in a CTV report. The all-Canadian company, which hopes to launch in the near future, aims to compete with U.S.-based Lime, which has an ongoing pilot under way around the University of Waterloo. Also in May, a bicycle-sharing pilot program launched across Waterloo Region, with 100 “Dropbikes” available to riders who can use a smartphone to unlock a bike and then park it just about anywhere when finished using it.

Urban mobility and youth wellbeing were key areas of focus in Waterloo Region’s bid for $50 million in the national Smart Cities Challenge, but ultimately the bid fell just short of winning. Undeterred, the many community partners behind the local initiative said they were determined to pursue solutions forged during the 18-month process of assembling their bid.

Moving product

Early in the month, dozens of people lined up in rainy weather to try on Focals, the smart eyeglasses developed by Waterloo Region-based North (formerly Thalmic Labs), the Record reported. North has taken its pop-up showroom to various North American cities over the past few months, fitting potential customers with the glasses.

A few blocks away from North’s Charles Street headquarters, BridesMade, an early graduate of Communitech’s Fierce Founders accelerator for women-led companies, opened a boutique to showcase some of the bridesmaid dresses it offers on its e-commerce rental platform, the Record reported.

AlertLabs, another downtown Kitchener-based startup and Communitech Rev alumna, partnered with the City of Niagara Falls to offer discounts to Niagara Falls homeowners on its smart water monitoring device, called Flowie, Niagara This Week reported. The easy-to-install device detects abnormal fluctuations in household water consumption, heading off huge water bills.

In other news

-This edition of the Roundup compiled by Anthony Reinhart

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

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