We interrupt this September Tech Roundup to bring you breaking news from early October – namely the announced (future) departure of Iain Klugman from his post as CEO and President of Communitech.
Klugman, who has held the CEO position since 2004, will step down at the end of January 2021, when his current contract expires.
“We have a super strong team, and a great organization is more than one person,” Klugman told the Waterloo Region Record.
The extended departure, Klugman said, is to give the organization’s board adequate time to find a replacement.
Klugman, 58, grew Communitech from seven staff and 275 member companies to 90-plus employees and 1,400 affiliated companies.
He said he has not yet decided what his next project will be, but plans to spend a good portion of the next year helping establish a major new Communitech initiative called Outposts, which was announced at the organization’s annual general meeting in late September.
Outposts is a program designed to help scale-ups hire sales staff outside of Canada. The Outposts – in the form of legal entities established in the U.S. and the U.K. (with plans to expand to all G20 countries in the future) – will take care of the back office – payroll, pension, legal and the like – associated with a new hire.
Kitchener-based Shinydocs was among the first companies to jump aboard the Outposts program.
“So this, for me, is about both cost effectiveness and reducing risk associated with the happiness and good treatment and appropriate treatment of staff,” Shinydocs CEO Jason Cassidy told Communitech News.
Cost effectiveness – and environmental effectiveness – is the rationale behind a new company called ShipperBee, launched by Guelph’s Jim Estill. Estill, the CEO of Danby Appliances and Order of Canada recipient for his ongoing work helping sponsor and settle Syrian refugees, aims to leverage the cargo space in people’s personal vehicles to disrupt package and parcel logistics.
Disruption was a common theme among six Waterloo Region tech companies – seven, if you include Shopify, which has a large Waterloo Region presence – that made the cut in a Globe and Mail list of top growing companies. In addition to Shopify, Auvik (No. 4), Voltera (No. 42), Bonfire No. 49), Bridgit (No. 79), Smile (No. 83) and Magnet Forensics (No. 256) all earned a place among a list of 400 firms.
Two of those companies – Magnet and Bridgit – were additionally featured in separate profiles. Magnet, the Waterloo digital forensics firm, was the subject of a ROB Magazine piece that described a key decision made in 2013 that led to the company’s current success. And Bridgit’s CEO and co-founder Mallorie Brodie was in the spotlight, part of a Globe series called Breaking Barriers. Still with Bridgit and Brodie, the Kitchener entrepreneur authored a piece for Food Logistics Magazine, identifying five tips for recruiting Gen Z employees to the supply chain industry.
Products R Us
Kitchener-based North, maker of smart eyewear, rolled out an app that scans the face of a potential customer, measuring it for proper eyewear fit and saving a trip to one of the company’s two retail locations.
Retail is on the minds of folks at the LCBO Next innovation lab at Communitech, which is now using two LCBO locations – one in Kitchener, one in Waterloo – as alpha and beta test beds for new products.
Vidyard, the Kitchener-based maker of video solutions for business, has made a big shift, says BetaKit, launching a free option for users of its video-sharing platform “in an attempt to make video content creation, hosting and management more accessible to businesses.”
Waterloo-based DarwinAI has partnered with German automotive giant Audi, which is using DarwinAI’s technology to speed development of the brain behind autonomous vehicles.
And researchers at the University of Waterloo, meanwhile, are at work on a new type of imaging technology that can identify cancer using laser light.
Mergers and Money
Plum, the Waterloo-based scale-up, announced a US$4.2-million raise led by Toronto VC Real Ventures, marking its evolution from a company focused on recruitment to one concentrating on enterprise talent management.
Likewise, Terminal, which provides space and back office services for companies employing development teams outside the U.S., completed a US$17-million Series B round. Terminal has Canadian offices in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Kitchener.
Delego Software, meanwhile, the Kitchener maker of B2B integrated payment solutions, was acquired by Atlanta, Ga.-based EVO Payments Inc., for an undisclosed amount.
And Grobo, the former Velocity company, landed $400,000 in investment during a recent Dragon’s Den episode. The two Dragons making the investment will split a five-per-cent equity share.
Speaking of Velocity, the University of Waterloo incubator had a busy month. Four Velocity companies – Maple Precision, SquidBio, Stacktronic and Watfly – each earned $50,000 at the Velocity Fund Pitch Competition. It was the first time the event has been held outside Waterloo.
Velocity led off September by announcing a new program which will operate under its umbrella, called Concept, described by Communitech News Editor Anthony Reinhart as a “pre-incubator” for students with startup ambitions and which will be located on the UW campus. Support for more mature companies will continue at Velocity’s existing location in Kitchener’s Lang Tannery building.
Support for entrepreneurs was unfolding at Wilfrid Laurier University, too. WLU’s Lazaridis Institute announced it has selected 10 early-stage tech firms to take part in the fifth cohort of its ScaleUp Program.
On the topic of scale-ups, MaRS Discovery District recently wrote about how it has partnered with Communitech and Invest Ottawa to surface a new generation of $100-million companies through the Scale-up Program, which launched last April with a $52.4-million injection from FedDev Ontario.
News, meanwhile, emerged about major changes at Kik, the Kitchebner-based company founded by CEO Ted Livingston that shot to prominence on the strength of its messaging app by the same name.
Livingston told the Record that the company has an agreement in place that will see the transfer of most of its staff and its space in Catalyst137 to an as-yet-unnamed tech company based in Silicon Valley as it continues to fight allegations from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it conducted an “illegal” securities offering when it made its initial sale of Kin cryptocurrency. Livingston has vowed to fight the charges until “we don’t have a dollar left.”
In other news
- Chuck Howitt’s new book, BlackBerry Town – How high tech success has played out for Canada’s Kitchener-Waterloo, hit store shelves in September, after a successful launch at The Boathouse bar and restaurant. Communitech News had a Q&A with the author, who is a former editor and reporter with the Waterloo Region Record.
- Hack the North, the annual 36-hour student hackathon that unfolds on the campus of University of Waterloo, attracted 1,500 participants in mid-September. Square and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey delivered opening remarks via a remote link.
- Nino Tarantino has been named the new CEO of IMS, the connected-car technology firm based in Waterloo that was brought out of receivership by Trak Global Group, based in Britain. Trak Global announced a US$50-million raise in late August.
- Medella Health has rebranded as Voyage Labs and is pivoting from making smart contact lenses that can monitor glucose levels for diabetes patients to other medical monitoring devices, writes BetaKit.
- Kitchener’s BinSentry, which has developed an IoT sensor used by feed-mills and farmers, won the THRIVE-Forbes Innovation Icon Award at the Forbes AgTech Summit in Indianapolis.
– 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.