Waterloo Tech Highlights for November 2021

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.

EnPowered announced closing C$12.75M of funding based on an investment of $9.4M by Inovia and a previous raise of $3.35M from Version One Ventures and Golden Ventures in early 2020.

Uvaro raised US$12M of equity in a round led by White Star Capital with Real Ventures and BDC’s Women in Technology fund also participating.

Axelar raised an undisclosed amount from Crypto.com Capital following a large round earlier this year.

NERv is raising their Series A. In addition, they successfully completed MDSAP and ISO 13485 audits, the primary requirement for Health Canada approval.

Roadmunk has been acquired by Boston-based Tempo Software.

Deloitte released their Fast 50 again with appearances by ApplyBoard (7th), Auvik (36th), Rapid Novor(39th), Bonfire (41st), and Roadmunk (45th) making the list.

Plum helped Scotiabank increase their first-year employee retention by 77% for a diversity-focused hiring initiative while not requiring job applicants to put together a formal resume.

Vena Medical hired their first commercial person as they get ready to go to market. Adam Karamath is their new head of Commercial Operations

Equator launched an additional 150 million hectares of lidar data in their global mapping platform. They believe they have the most extensive library of online lidar data available.

SSIMWAVE secured a contract renewal from a global streaming service that represented 81% growth over the prior year. They also won deals with several new customers in the media & entertainment industry.

Intellijoint received FDA clearance for their new episode of care solution.

TextNow has hired David Chaing as their new Chief Product Officer. The company is on track to achieve top line over US$100M of revenue.

Clearpath Robotics is providing the test platform and working with MDA to build a lunar rover.

Ground News launched a feature to showcase your Twitter consumption biases and where your news comes from. It’s really cool.

Chris’ Thoughts

I’m a sucker for lists so here are six observations from the past year and thoughts about their consequences in 2022.

- Many local software teams had to either raise wages by over 20% or they saw attrition rise above 30% as talented developers discovered global companies willing to pay them a lot more (see Footnote). The talent shortage under these new economics will have a greater impact on Waterloo’s Tech Ecosystem in 2022 than the much-publicized supply chain shortages. Employees will continue to command a larger share of the pie.

- The increasing focus in some circles on employee beliefs and values (anti-mask, cancel culture, etc.) has continued to shape companies with polarized teams who increasingly think the same not tolerating people who think differently. While some view this as a good thing, Canada’s historic success has lied in tolerating a plurality of values and beliefs and finding common ground with people who think differently. The companies who can do this best will see the greatest productivity gains. Great HR Leaders have never been more undervalued.

- We have all spent more time with fewer people for the past couple years and 2022 will see a great re-evaluation of that trend. While some will abandon their cottages and family bike rides for cruises and parties, we have all come to appreciate and demand more flexibility to our work schedules to live life on our own terms and in addition to wages, employees will seek opportunities that give them a more flexible lifestyle.

- Climate change has pushed everything aside (except COVID) to claim the top agenda spot and that’s a trend that’s going to last a long time. There’s real money to be made here for the people who get both the enabling technologies right AND the timing. Clean Tech will be valued for more than just their P&L potential, especially by polluters looking to remake their image.

- Our ecosystem has matured considerably in the past year. When I left RIM eight years ago there were a small handful of companies with over $5M of revenue – lots of promise but not a whole lot else. Today there are 5-10 times as many and continued growth has put high quality problems like talent shortage at the top of the list for our ecosystem. The biggest consequence of this will be availability of capital for new entrepreneurs here. People getting rich from secondaries, IPOs and outright sales will increasingly recycle some of those funds into the next generation of startups.

- Nobody thinks that a ransomware attack will happen to them. It used to be only big firms who got attacked, but the hackers are coming for everyone. Many remain more vulnerable than they think and it’s going to increase everybody’s overhead costs to deal with this. The coming year will continue to see an increase in cyber attacks with devastating consequences on small and mid-sized companies who previously thought they were flying under the radar. It used to be patent trolls who treated funding announcements like blood in the water, now it’s well-organized Black Hat groups. The digital security business will be an even bigger growth market than Clean Tech.

With my three university kids all coming home for Christmas, I’m excited about the break. I hope you get some time off to reconnect with friends and family. It’s a great community that supports each other and has low tolerance for bad actors. Thanks for reading and for your support this year. The next edition won’t be until the end of January.

Footnote: I tried to collect data to share on wage increase, attrition, and unfilled positions and while many companies freely shared sensitive information, there weren’t enough participants to make any statistically valid assertions. Thanks to those who shared though.

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