New spot for HubSpot: Marketing automation company HubSpot announced its first Canadian office will open in Toronto, and it plans to hire for more than 50 positions. Spokesperson Ryan Beale said that its expansion into Canada would help it tap into Toronto’s talent pool and support its growth.

Walmart rolls in: Retail giant Walmart has chosen Toronto as one of its two global tech hubs. Toronto Mayor John Tory told BlogTO that “Walmart’s decision to make Toronto the home of one of its larger tech hubs with hundreds of jobs to come is another vote of confidence in our city’s thriving tech sector.”

Making room for everyone: There’s a new venture fund focusing on supporting women entrepreneurs. Phoenix Fire is led by Danielle Graham, creator of Communitech’s Fierce Founders program, and TD Bank executive Claudette McGowan, the fund has raised more than its $2 million target. Graham told BetaKit that the fund will both invest in startups and provide education to encourage more angel investing in women-led companies.

Money talk

Home ownership startup secures seed round: Rising real estate prices are making the dream of owning a home a nightmare for many first-time buyers. Toronto-based Key has raised $11 million in seed funding to change that with an innovative purchasing model. Instead of a traditional mortgage, Key’s platform combines renting and owning, where a portion of the payments increases home equity over time.

Thousands join waitlist for energy gel: Would you use an oral gel that claimed to give you more energy and help you focus? Forty thousand people would. That’s how many are on Mikra Cellular Sciences’ wait list, according to its founder, Faraaz Jamal — and that’s without its product being ready. Mikra’s parent company, Lifeist Wellness, has committed $8.5 million to help it bring its product to market.

Feds put billions into digital tech: The Federal government announced a new $4-billion Canada Digital Adoption Program modeled after the Digital Main Street project that started in Toronto. Qualified businesses can apply for microgrants for everything from website development to help with digital marketing efforts.

Trends to watch

Large pepperoni, hold the fees: Small restaurant owners have realized that the fees from services like Uber Eats and DoorDash can really eat into profits. Now one Toronto joint is bucking the digital trend. Juniors has dropped the services and is replacing them with its own free delivery service. “I can admit that calling for a pizza in some ways can seem like an old-fashioned practice, but it’s what works best for us,” co-owner Shane Lemieux told BlogTO.

Making it

Improving medical imaging: When tech worker Harsh Nayyar hurt his ankle in 2013 he was baffled to receive his X-rays on a CD-ROM. But it inspired him to start PocketHealth. The service allows medical providers to share medical images with patients securely online. Based in Toronto, the startup’s business has grown exponentially during the pandemic, with over 500 hospitals and clinics across North America offering the service to patients.

Local bookstore love: One silver lining of the pandemic has been a renewed drive to shop locally. Waterloo city councillor Jen Vasic and teacher Natasha Steer were looking for a way to steer people from Amazon to locally owned bookstores, so they created a blog detailing all the great places in the GTA to get the latest thriller or a cherished classic. Here are five of their favourite GTA bookstores for you to visit.

Making jewelry more accessible: Inspired by her work with youth and adults with disabilities, University of Toronto student Amanda Sottile’s new venture, Haven & Co, offers a line of necklaces designed for use by individuals with motor skill or mobility issues. The necklaces use add-on magnetic clasps that are easier to use than traditional jewelry clasps. “I have always loved jewelry and accessories, but this venture allowed me to merge my love for accessories and my passion for helping individuals of all abilities by creating inclusive jewelry,” Sottile said.

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