Waterloo Tech Highlights for July 2022

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.

KA Imaging received a $1M grant from the Ontario Together Fund to help build a local mobile X-Ray system.

Reebee sold to Flipp (Missed this from June). The announcement says that all 80 employees will remain and continue to operate as a subsidiary.

NERv has obtained their Health Canada medical license covering their device and software.

RideCo won a contract with Yolo County California to power on-demand transit for the whole county. They also expanded San Antonio by more than 2x to cover 100 sq. miles.

Intellijoint’s technology has been used in over 35,000 procedures globally.

SSIMWAVE released a cool white paper showing the terrible video quality that live sports currently provides most consumers.

Proto raised $5.6M from Muckler Caital and Yolo Investments. (* Not really sure if they’re Waterloo based. They seem to be located everywhere.)

Spensor signed up Donovan Bailey to join their advisory board.

Chris’ Thoughts

Canadian medical device startups have not been a good historical investment but there’s hope on the horizon with better approval support and local procurement improvements. There are a ton of exciting things happening locally that give me lots of hope.

I continue to see Health Canada providing medical licenses much more quickly and seamlessly than the US FDA does, enabling Canadian innovators to commercialize with real procedures in advance of starting an expensive US commercialization effort. In the past year or so Waterloo based KA Imaging, Vena, and now NERv have all received medical licenses in Canada, giving them a route to market that’s both faster and cheaper than starting in the USA.

The next challenge remains Canadian commercialization, with a difficult hospital procurement and provincial reimbursement process that’s much more risk-averse and preferential to large US incumbents than what Canadian companies face when selling in America ironically. Much like in other tech industries, our procurement support remains weak when it comes to stepping up to enable our nascent local ecosystem. I suspect that most startups would gladly take a dollar of revenue over a dollar of funding since it provides the validation they need to get that second, third and tenth dollar of revenue so I think part of the answer involves turning funding cash into procurement cash.

On this front, it does seem like Ontario is leaning in and working to create programs with additional money for local procurement. The pace of progress remains slow but it’s more than we’ve seen for years.

Ten years ago Canadian medical device innovators lacked a realistic Go-For-It path. Only American VC could provide the large amounts of capital required and it remained tied to FDA approval, forcing most companies to either raise a ton of money and give away most of the company or sell early to a large US player like J&J or Medtronic for a fraction of the potential and draining our IP into American waterways. With hospitals looking for productivity to offset staff shortages, and some forward thinking by provincial and federal bodies, it feels like there’s a potential for some tailwinds. Medtech is notoriously counter-cyclical so it would be awesome to get some enduring strength in this area with global leaders based right here.

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Chris Wormald @cwormald