Waterloo Tech Highlights for January 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.


We didn’t publish a newsletter on Jan 1, so there’s some December stories here too.

 

Vena Medical’s camera performed a successful first-in-human surgery in Ottawa in a procedure being hailed as a breakthrough.  Cool interview here with the surgeon (hit the “Play Here” button).

 

Friendlier raised $5M of capital in a round led by Relay Ventures and Garage Capital.  They plan to build facilities in Guelph and Vancouver.

 

Miovision acquired CJ Hensch a Texas-based traffic data collection and studies company, and current Miovision customer, putting the company on a vertical integration path.

 

FluidAI received $1.4M from the Province of Ontario to build manufacturing capacity. 

 

Axonify saw half of their founding crew sail off into the sunset.  Christine Tutssel has retired herself.  The company hired David Carter as the new CRO.

 

Intellijoint experienced their first ever quarter of break-even US operations as they drive for profitability.

 

KA Imaging released a cool comparison image highlighting the things their technology detects.

 

Equator is working to incorporate generative AI to halve the time to create proposals for engineering projects.

 

eleven-x signed Comcast as a US reseller.  They also won a Sourcewell RFP, accelerating their ability to go to market in the US.

 

RideCo ended 2023 with 70 deployments in North America and launched the largest on-demand transit system in Philadelphia with 400 vehicles.


 



Chris’ Thoughts


Things We Didn’t Predict 

 

I generally dislike predictions.  They’re titillating and popular at this time of year but they’re kind of like eating sugar or watching TikTok in terms of the long-term value.  

 

So, I thought I’d draw a few lines to remind us of how the world was just ten years ago and contrast that with today, highlighting the things we never saw coming.    While it lacks scientific rigour I hope you find it interesting.

 

Global Changes I Didn’t See Coming

-       Ten years ago the name ISIS didn’t exist as the killing of Osama Bin Laden was supposed to put an end to a decade-long war on terror. 

-       That Europe would resemble the Galactic Senate (Star Wars reference) and bureaucratize away a decade of lost productivity and competitiveness.

-       That Japan would stay down so long.  That China would stumble.  That America would rack up so much debt and nobody would care.  That Russia would lean into their demographic time bomb by launching a war and driving out millions of citizens.

-       That so many countries would stop having babies and enter their own demographic death-spiral.

-       That mass shootings in America would become so commonplace.  Nor that so many mass shootings would occur outside of the USA.

-       That Donald Trump would ever be taken seriously for anything.  Or that he would capture the minds and hearts of millions who otherwise feel left behind, triggering an era of populism.

-       That professional sport team values would skyrocket.  Especially NFL teams that have gone up 3-6x in value against a tide of increased concussion awareness.  That mega-stars and franchises would get all the money.

 

Canada Changes I Didn’t See Coming

-       That we’d go from bust to boom to bust in tech investing in Canada.  A decade ago, there were only three active funds in Canada writing $1M investment cheques.  Two years ago, there was over 50 firms.  Maybe even 100.  It will be interesting to see how many generate a return for LPs.

-       All the new ways to die – from fentanyl, to COVID and the rapid adoption of assisted suicide, all political issues as much as health ones.

-       That people would increasingly turn away from alcohol and towards prescription drugs to get their fix.  Canadians taking at least one prescription drug has increased from 41% to 65% in the past decade.  I’m increasingly amazed at how many people of all ages don’t consume alcohol.

-       That we would achieve near-universal broadband internet that works consistently for 97% of Canadians.  Hard to remember how spotty home internet was a decade ago.

 

Waterloo Changes I Didn’t See Coming

-       That the Waterloo startup machine would stall hard.  Some would say die.  Owing to a number of factors, not least of which is a brain drain of tens of thousands of our best and brightest STEM students skipping graduation to start jobs in California.  Each great coder takes ~10 skilled jobs in product, sales, marketing and finance with them.  I don’t understand why this continues to avoid attention.

-       That so many University Presidents and leaders would set their institutions on a path to burn down decades of brand value and goodwill and risk its very existence.

-       That international student permits would double and turn Universities into foreign cash addicts that now jeopardizes most of our Canadian institutions.

 

Technology Changes I Didn’t See Coming

-       That Influencers would emerge as a rich-get-richer tool and a means for brands to enable new ways to reach audiences.  From $0 it’s a business worth over $20B today with celebs like Selena Gomez getting paid over $2M for a single post about a product.

-       That bitcoin and crypto currency would capture such mainstream attention.  While it remains technology looking for problems to solve, it’s undeniable how mainstream it has become.  Very few even knew the word Bitcoin ten years ago.

-       That Apple’s headphone and watch business would be born and grow from $0 into a $40B/year business that would put it at #105 on the Fortune 500 today.

-       That the wave of Boomer retirements we’ve been hearing about for 30 years would finally start.  And that it would terrify mass-employers who aren’t ready for it, igniting a wave of labour productivity.

-       The Theranos fraud.  In hindsight it’s obvious that something like this would happen.  The aftermath has served to stifle innovation and make med-tech investing much more difficult and expensive, causing capital to flee the space.

-       That buying a Tesla would substitute for real action on climate change.


Waterloo Tech Highlights is a communication initiative run by a group of experienced investors and strategists who would like to receive and share real news about the vibrant Waterloo, Ontario tech community.

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Chris Wormald @cwormald