Tech unicorns with a Canadian – and Waterloo Region – pedigree aren’t born every day. Count Faire newly among them.
Based in San Francisco and Kitchener, Faire announced a Series D raise of US$150 million during the last week of October, bringing its total funding to US$266 million and pushing the company to a valuation of US$1 billion – the unicorn threshold.
Faire was launched in 2017, with an engineering team based in Kitchener – where co-founder and CTO Marcelo Cortes had previously worked for Square and Google – and with business operations in San Francisco. The company (formerly known as Indigo Fair) offers online purchasing for independent retail stores, curating merchandise based on sales data and allowing stores to return unsold product.
There were big changes afoot, meanwhile, over at Kik, one of Waterloo Region’s earlier unicorns. The maker of the messaging app had back-to-back announcements – first, that the majority of its Kitchener employees had been hired by a San Francisco equity management company called Carta, and then, the next day, that another San Francisco-based company, MediaLab, had purchased Kik’s messaging app. The twin announcements answered questions that had been lingering since 2017, when the sale of tokens for Kik’s Kin cryptocurrency sparked a battle with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
More deals and dollars
Canadian technology companies have long lamented the difficulty of attracting capital in Canada. Signs of a thaw may be afoot – in fintech circles, at least: The Logic reported that Scotiabank is making a push into the tech financing markets in Canada’s three biggest cities, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and is prepared to invest money across a spectrum ranging from seed-stage to large firms.
On the topic of finance, the Golden Triangle Angel Network (GTAN) in Cambridge joined forces with the Angel One Investment Network in Burlington and London, Ont.-based Southwestern Ontario Angels to form a new entity called Equation Angels.
By the by, Equation Angels CEO Jess Joss was onstage at the University of Waterloo’s Humanities Theatre in late October, one of several panelists at an event called Raising Early Stage Capital. Her key bit of advice for startups looking for early money? Build relationships.
Over in the med-tech sphere, meanwhile, Oculys Health Informatics, which makes patient and management systems for hospitals, was acquired by Toronto’s VitalHub Corp. for more than CDN$4.2 million. The Oculys office will remain in Waterloo and former CEO Franck Hivert will continue to lead Oculys as COO.
Another company in the health-care field, NERv Technology, announced it has landed CDN$1 million in pre-seed funding. NERv, based in Kitchener, makes patient sensors that help reduce post-operative complications.
And BetaKit reports that Kitchener’s Quantum Benchmark, which in 2017 spun out of the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing, has renewed a licensing agreement for its quantum software with tech giant Google.
Vote for Tech
The federal Liberals were returned to power (albeit with a minority) and the pre-election wrangling sparked some discussion about government policy as it relates to the Canadian tech ecosystem. Axonify CEO Carol Leaman was among those who spoke out. “We need politicians to be talking about long-term prosperity,” Leaman told the Globe and Mail.
Later in the month, local companies spoke up during a visit to Waterloo Region by Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips. Improved rail service and policy that helps with talent and training were on the minds of business and civic leaders, issues that Phillips acknowledged need attention.
Clearpath Robotics CTO Ryan Gariepy had some opinions to express, reiterating his call for a ban on killer robots in a Waterloo Region Record story penned by James Jackson.
Voice amplification is the aim of a newly announced collaboration involving Waterloo’s Accelerator Centre and Amazon’s Alexa Fund: The Alexa Voice Tech Accelerator Program runs from six to 12 months and is designed for entrepreneurs working on voice-powered technologies. Applications are now being accepted for a Dec. 2 cohort.
Auditory themes were on the mind of Communitech News contributor Alex Kinsella, who talked with Deloitte Chief Innovation Officer Terry Stuart about a project called The Awesome Music Project, which aims to accelerate solutions to mental health through music.
The envelope, please
Serial entrepreneur and philanthropist Jim Estill was in the spotlight in October: Estill, CEO of Guelph’s Danby Appliances and who recently started a package delivery company called ShipperBee, was named the Ontario region’s EY Entrepreneur of the Year, and will compete with other provincial winners in late November for the national honour.
Estill, by the way, got some worldwide exposure in the form of a recent BBC News story, part of a series that profiles business leaders from around the world.
Speaking of profiles, The Record flagged the work being done by CEO Jesse David and his team at Zebu, a local startup which has launched a cloud-based platform that helps small and medium-sized businesses secure their data and files in a cost-effective manner.
While securing data is important, so too is securing a resource like water. Communitech’s Koosha Totonchi highlighted the work being done by a Cambridge company called Waterlix, which uses predictive technology capable of telling a municipality where and when a water main break will happen. Waterlix received help from the Communitech Data Concierge and the City of Kitchener to build the data sets that fed the creation of the Waterlix platform, which relies on AI and satellite imagery.
Satellite data is the name of the game at Waterloo-based SkyWatch, which hosted the local chapter of the NASA International Space Apps Challenge hackathon, joining nearly 200 cities worldwide that simultaneously did the same.
And while we’re on the topic of SkyWatch, don’t miss the story produced by Zeitspace journalist and Communitech News contributor Kelly Pedro, who wrote about SkyWatch developer Alex McVittie. McVittie’s team won the most inspirational category at the Space Apps Challenge last year with an algorithm that takes satellite pictures of Earth and turns them into … wait for it … music. McVittie was among a group speaking at an event called “Let’s Talk About Space” at the Institute for Quantum Computing.
On the move
Technology from Waterloo’s RideCo is powering what is believed to be the first on-demand bus service in Canada. Jeff Genung, the mayor of Cochrane, Alta., northwest of Calgary, told CTV News that the cost of the on-demand service is “almost half” that of a traditional circulating bus system.
Transportation, of course, is the business of Ford Motor Company. Ford has taken over a former BlackBerry building on Columbia Street West where it has established the Waterloo Connectivity and Innovation Centre, part of a $500-million investment by Ford’s Canadian arm in innovation and manufacturing, the Waterloo Region Record’s Brent Davis reports.
Investment in innovation is well under way at Manulife Financial Corp., which described in a Communitech News story how it leveraged the expertise of its corporate innovation lab, housed at Communitech, during the process of designing its new banking app.
Meanwhile, Mark Barrenechea, CEO at Waterloo Region software giant OpenText, sat down with the Globe and Mail and talked about the state of the company, saying the company won’t sacrifice profit in order to generate revenue. “I like the balance we have,” he said.
In other news
- Waterloo Region companies Amina Health and EnPowered have gained acceptance into the Creative Destruction Lab’s scale-up mentorship program. Other local companies that have taken part include Borealis Wind, Bridgit, Darwin AI, North and Plum.
- Kitchener’s Miovision, which has been working with the City of Detroit on the creation of smart intersections, has now partnered with nearby Windsor in order to improve traffic flows across along Huron Church Road, the main thoroughfare leading to the Ambassador Bridge. Miovision says it has seen an improvement of 20 per cent since July.
- Applications are being accepted until Nov. 4 from artists looking to display their work at the Communitech Area 151 Art Wall. Successful applicants receive a $250 bursary and keep the proceeds of any sales.
- Oracle subsidiary NetSuite held an open house to celebrate the expansion of its office at 55 King St. W. in downtown Kitchener.
– This edition of the Tech Roundup compiled by Craig Daniels
Stay current on Waterloo Region tech by visiting news.communitech.ca.
Communitech is a partner of Startup HERE Toronto. This article originally appeared on their site.