Newsmakers

Making sense of mortgages: Toronto-based fintech startup Perch has launched Pathfinder, a new tool that helps Canadians find mortgage deals online by comparing offers from more than 20 different lenders. The tool factors in expected prime interest rate movements so prospective home buyers can see expected costs between fixed and variable rate mortgages and different term lengths.

Building Black-owned businesses: Melisa Ellis, founder of Nobellum, a non-profit social enterprise working to increase diversity and inclusion for Black founders in STEM startups, is collaborating with the University of Toronto to help launch at least 100 Black-owned startups by 2025. Nobellum will contribute $60,000, with a matching investment from the university’s True Blue Fund, to deliver training, mentorship and incubation programs for aspiring Black entrepreneurs at the university and to help Black founders validate their ideas.

Forma.ai adds new execs: Rapidly expanding Forma.ai has added three experienced leaders to its bench, including Alain Boutros, formerly of Gradient Ascent AI and Lighthouse Labs, who is now its vice president of revenue optimization. Forma.ai, which provides a platform to manage compensation for sales reps, says it has seen significant growth over the past three years and recently landed several big-name clients including Autodesk, Trust Pilot and CareerBuilder.

Hot list: Fast-growing Toronto ventures Moves Financial, TealBook and Barley made BetaKit’s list of startups to watch in 2022.

Money talk

Relationship app woos investors: Lots of apps help people find that special someone, but Couply, which launched last year, helps people make their existing relationships work. Co-founder Tim Johnson and fellow Wattpad alumnus Denesh Raymond have now closed a $300,000 pre-seed funding round from Wattpad co-founder Ivan Yuen, OneLocal co-founder Neel Lukka, Kathy Huynh of RBC Ventures and other investors including employees of Drop and Shopify. They will develop new personalization features to help couples improve communication.

Odaia raises $17.5M: Toronto-based Odaia has landed a $17.5-million series A round. The company creates A.I.-powered software that helps pharmaceutical companies better engage with their customers and drive sales. CEO Philip Poulidis told Betakit that the pharma industry has masses of data but struggles to create insights. “A lot of players within that space are lacking in actionable predictive analytics, especially when it comes to the commercial side of the business.”

Trend to watch

Commercial property tax in the crosshairs: The Globe and Mail reports that small-business owners in hot real-estate markets are pushing for relief on soaring property taxes, which can sometimes be as much as the rent. The City of Toronto actually lowered property tax rates for small businesses by 15 percent last year, and there are calls for other municipalities to do the same.

Making it

Sweet side hustle: Vegan churros maker Miguel Angel Garcia is looking to expand into pop-ups and farmers’ markets after his sweet treats — inspired by his father’s four-decade-old recipe — became a hit on social media. Garcia, who came to Canada from Mexico in 2016, told BlogTO he started experimenting in his home kitchen while taking care of his new daughter and posted his creations online. He now sells up to 100 churros a day, mostly through Instagram.

Gamifying fitness: Aviron Interactive founder Andy Hoang combined a passion for fitness and technology to create a high-tech rowing machine with a 22-inch touchscreen to play games, race against others and compete on a global leader board. Hoang told Toronto Life he initially focused on hotels but the pandemic forced him to pivot to home users — and revenue hit $300,000 a month.

Getting fresh: Powering through the day with coffee often leads to a search for breath mints. Mintier founders Jessica Sheppard and Rhaelyn Gillespie noticed that there were no sugar-free breath freshening products on the market — so they created their own. Over the past two years, they’ve had to contend with big competitors and prototype failures. Here’s the story of how they went from trying to cook up a new mint in a home kitchen to having their product on shelves in Sobeys.

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