Waterloo Tech Highlights for March 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.

Tyltgo raised C$2.3M of equity funding from TI Platform Management, Y Combinator and Charles Songhurst. They'll use the funds to expand their retail distribution network across Ontario.

Axonify acquired MLevel, an Atlanta-based competitor, consolidating their employees and customers.

Vidyard released their Video in Business Benchmark Report, revealing the number of videos their platform published increased 135% in 2020.

Plum is having its strongest quarter ever, closing an enterprise deal with a top 5 US bank while getting an early renewal from Whirlpool on a multi-year deal.

Shinydocs has already surpassed last fiscal year's revenue in six months and expects to more than double their top line this year. They now have 50 staff.

SSIMWAVE received high praise from a Disney executive who also acknowledged their commercial relationship.

RideCo is launching on-demand transit in three new cities - Loudoun, Spruce Grove and Cobourg and expanding services in two current client cities - Guelph and St. Catharines.

KA Imaging is installing two systems at Toronto General Hospital this month. They also hired Philip Templeton as their Chief Medical Officer.

Avidbots signed a UK distribution deal with Beta Solutions.

The Canadian Shield is pivoting from selling masks to selling machines, announcing that they're now selling mask and visor manufacturing systems.

AdHawk Microsystems announced that their eye-tracking glasses the MindLink are available for pre-order.

Nominal Controls got featured with a great background story, featuring installing their switches in a solar project in remote Kenya.

Chris’ Thoughts

We're all entitled to our own opinions, but we're not entitled to our own facts.

I'm intrigued by the story of Bill Hwang and his rapid fall from grace last week. Skip to the next paragraph if you know the basic story. Bill runs an investment firm called Archegos, a family office with $10B of assets that borrowed money (leverage) to invest over $50B in a concentrated number of momentum stocks. Last week margin calls on these stocks forced him to sell, wiping out Bill and Archegos swiftly and completely while causing shares of the stocks he owned like Viacom to fall by over 50%. He may take out one or two of the brokerage firms who lent him all that money with him.

While most people are busy outdoing themselves to find creative ways to express judgment for Bill's reckless stupidity (examples here, here, here and here), I'm trying to be curious, and uncover what I can learn from this.

Why would a guy who has Ten Billion Dollars risk it all many times over on momentum stocks? What was he hoping to gain that he didn't already have? It's easy and lazy to label him but most people do things for reasons that have internal consistency. Where were the sane advisors to effectively tell him that this was crazy - did he fire them, or refuse to listen? These are the questions for the books that will get written.

But how about making it more personal: What areas of my life have asymmetric risk in them? What areas am I "rich" yet taking insane risks? Like maybe with my health and diet, or texting while I'm driving. From the other direction, what areas am I "poor" but behaving too conservatively, even though there's little to lose and my downside risks are much lower than my upside potential. Like maybe investing more in friendship development.

I've always liked the way Naseem Taleb articulates the many ways that humans manage risk poorly. He coined the phrase, "Picking up pennies in front of a steamroller" to describe situations with asymmetric risk. It's easy to apply hindsight to others' downfalls, but so much more difficult to examine risk in our own lives proactively. I'm trying to use moments like this constructively and look at places I can do better.

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Chris Wormald @cwormald