Waterloo Tech Highlights for March 2024

Our goal is to provide you with a monthly primer on significant news events from private Waterloo-based technology companies in 5 minutes or less.

High Q Technologies received $3.75M of FedDev funding from the Government of Canada.


Code raised $6.5M of funding in a round led by M13 and Union Square Ventures along with some notable individual investors.  Missed this from a month ago.


Miovision acquired Traffic Technology Services, a network that relays traffic light information to vehicles.


AutoCate, a Velocity company got a good startup profile of the problem and what they’re chasing here.


DarwinAI has been acquired by Apple.  The deal closed in January but hasn’t been reported until now.  The Logic states that the deal was not very lucrative for shareholders but other details aren’t available.

Chris’ Thoughts

Coal Mines and Canaries

Welcome April and happy Easter.  The engineers have their shiny new iron rings and the world is warming up.  Such a happy time.


Last month I visited a handful of the Waterloo Engineering 4th Year Design Projects and think there’s a couple of threads worth mentioning.  


Projecting the Future

The caliber of the projects this year was strong – better than average.  Thoughtful, innovative and many complete solutions around a real problem, I was most impressed with the Mechatronics class – probably the best group I’ve seen ever.  Few AI projects though and that surprised me.  This class lives up to the hype and gives me hope that they’ve pulled through the challenges of COVID and are ready to take on the world.


Startup Stall

I found four teams thinking about continuing their work after graduating.  Probably a bit more than recent years but nothing near what we would have seen ten years ago when companies like Intellijoint, Miovision, Vena Medical, and many more were born.  It seems like people with startup genes generally don’t get admitted to UW anymore.  I was hoping that a softer job market and the opportunities around AI would birth more entrepreneurs, but it doesn’t look like it has yet. 


What Jobs?

The System Design class usually has the highest co-op and graduating employment rate of all the engineering streams.  By March pretty much everybody who wants a job has one.  Among the 20 almost-grads I spoke with I found one student who has a job right now.  Only one.  The class survey data looks a bit better with about 30 of 100 considering themselves employed.  Make no mistake though, 30% is staggeringly low.  I didn’t find any moving to the United States, typically it would be 75% or more of the class.  I think the scarcity of jobs stems from the fact that Systems Design grads disproportionately find jobs in software development and product management – two fields that have been decimated with job reductions and AI fueled productivity gains.  As a humourous aside, one respondent to their class survey said his post-graduation plans are, “F-ing off to a forest somewhere, climbing a tree and not coming down until I forget what a computer is”


Meanwhile, the Mechatronics class seems to be faring relatively well with about 38% of them employed and 55% still looking.  Eight of the 30 (25%) I spoke to with jobs are going to the States.


These fourth year projects give a glimpse into both the what and more importantly the who of the next era of technology and innovation.  I’d love to find more ways to increase partnerships with investors and local companies and make these projects into springboards for future ventures and not just fulfillment of academic requirements.

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Chris Wormald @cwormald