Communitech News http://news.communitech.ca Tech updates from Waterloo, Canada Fri, 08 Dec 2017 13:49:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5 The Communitech News podcast is full of stories from the front lines of the Waterloo Region tech sector. Communitech Communitech socialmedia@communitech.ca socialmedia@communitech.ca (Communitech) Right now in Waterloo Region tech Communitech News https://d3bem67vv0tpdp.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/2017-tannery-shot-square.jpg http://news.communitech.ca Waterloo Region, Ontario M-Theory: On net neutrality, the medium is part of the message http://news.communitech.ca/columns/m-theory-on-net-neutrality-the-medium-is-part-of-the-message/ Wed, 06 Dec 2017 21:15:48 +0000 http://news.communitech.ca/?p=16553 The prospect of the repeal of net neutrality in the U.S. is terrifying, and its effects would be felt well north of the 49th parallel (globally, really). There’s been plenty of news coverage, running the gamut of rhetorical skill, knowledge proficiency, and political agenda. If some small good can come from this debacle, it’s that […]

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The prospect of the repeal of net neutrality in the U.S. is terrifying, and its effects would be felt well north of the 49th parallel (globally, really). There’s been plenty of news coverage, running the gamut of rhetorical skill, knowledge proficiency, and political agenda.

If some small good can come from this debacle, it’s that some of the coverage provides an interesting and educational look at how to address, engage, and educate an audience.

None of the examples that follow are from pro-repeal writers. Because honestly.

Of course, we need some good ’ol clickbait, so let’s start with this dredged-up piece on the lack of net neutrality in Portugal that’s making the rounds. In truth, though, the tiered system of internet access mentioned in that article only applies to mobile, and Portugal is subject to broader EU-wide laws as well. But hey, they tried.

A lot of coverage was just rather generic and dry. It might appeal to a specific professional or technical audience, but can be a slog for the average online reader. See this Wired article with its depth of detail and numbers or Gizmodo’s “the day after” legal take. Plus, a vague “it ain’t over til it’s over” ending doesn’t really satisfy or provide a call to action.

This op-ed from the LA Times is compelling, in no small part because the writer is Jessica Rosenworcel: a lawyer, Democrat, net neutrality champion, and FCC Commissioner. She writes, in part, about the scrutiny of comments made by citizens to the FCC on net neutrality and an ensuing investigation:

What happened to 50,000 comments that seem to have gone missing? How did dead people allegedly post comments? And how much of the response was legitimate and how many comments were made by bots?

Americans, she writes, should get angry about the usual implications of the loss of net neutrality, but also because someone might have been messing with their right to be heard. (You don’t tell Americans what to do and you don’t try to prevent them from doing what they want.)

The Globe and Mail paints a bleak step-by-step picture of the progression of the death of democracy in the U.S. if net neutrality is repealed. It strikes at the heart of fears held by those involved in political resistance movements against the current administration. (Which includes everyone from suburban moms in pink knitted hats to Juggalos…)

After neutrality’s repeal comes “packing of the courts with conservative extremists who legal scholars worry will decimate constitutional rights.” Then voter suppression and the inability to properly share information about or document it. Resulting in disenfranchisement of already marginalized groups: the poor, non-whites, immigrants, etc.

Even if that hasn’t fully happened yet, it’s believable and scary because it ties events that could happen to similar things that the U.S. administration has already done.

Smaller and more personal stories can be as effective as painting broad portraits of oppressive dystopias. Musician Will Meyer wrote about using online services to connect with audiences and promote and sell music. Then he deftly linked that to the net neutrality fight.

He addressed growing issues with how social platforms no longer work to connect artists with audiences:

“I ditched Facebook (the first time) because, to me, it represents a type of uninspired internet that leeches our data, privacy, and art in pursuit of making Mark Zuckerberg and his shareholders very rich.”

He explains how the best marketing is now reserved for those with multi-million dollar promotions budgets, largely pushing out small, independent artists like himself. And then he ties it to what’s potentially going to happen to the entire country with initiatives like the repeal of net neutrality:

“But the truth is Facebook isn’t free. We pay with our data and we must pay with our dollars if we want the algorithm to take our bands seriously. This is exactly what the Trump administration hopes to do to the entire internet: sell all of our browsing history to better target us with ads and then create an internet ‘fast lane’ for those who can afford it.”

More doom and gloom, but he does end on a more positive note of resistance about how net neutrality and artists need each other. And how average folks and artists need to support each other, too. (Very true.)

But the one specific take that hit below the belt most effectively (pun intended – you’ll see) wasn’t from a major media outlet. It was a data-heavy post on Medium. (And more infographics!)

I am referring to Sharlene King’s “Are you ready to pay for porn?Now we’re getting into the real Internet.

Sure, those other articles talk about social media access and streaming movies and such. But what movies do you think get streamed the most? Since most people don’t pay for porn, we don’t tend to think about it in terms of Internet traffic or resources. But porn is estimated to account for 30-40% of online data.

I read the whole article and still can’t wrap my brain around the scale of that. Let’s just say size really does matter.

Just think of how ISPs and other invested companies must be salivating at the idea of the gargantuan profits when they can finally monetize that white whale. Worth just about any amount of lobbying dollars, no?

Of course, the toll on consumers would be potentially devastating far beyond their wallets:

“In some database of billing history will be your name, your address, and your method of payment tied to what you watched. Let me be clear, I’m saying you can be identified and so can your porn.

Is that a risk you’re willing to take? Are your closeted relatives ready for their cable company to put “Daddy Diaper Time” on a billing statement?”

Yup, not only could big, faceless corporations control your access to porn and charge whatever they wanted for it, they could ruin your life and reveal your deepest secrets all in the name of “Protecting Internet Freedom” or whatever nonsense name the repeal act was given.

Here endeth the lesson. No matter what the issue, but especially when democracy itself is at stake (and your ability to pirate Game of Thrones), you need to know your audience; you need to make the issue hit home for real people; and you have to be able to bring data to life.

And hey, if Bell has their way, you might get an opportunity to practice right here in Canada.

M-Theory is an opinion column by Melanie Baker. Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Communitech. Melle can be reached @melle or me@melle.ca.

Photo: Internet, by Ai.Comput’In, is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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We Built This – Encircle: Insurance claims, simplified http://news.communitech.ca/news/we-built-this-encircle-insurance-claims-simplified/ Wed, 06 Dec 2017 17:12:39 +0000 http://news.communitech.ca/?p=16537 Encircle is a cloud-based app that bridges the gap between the traditional brick-and-mortar insurance companies and their policyholders through automation and modern visual communication tools to process claims faster. By utilizing a mobile phone’s camera and allowing all parties to track the progress of claims in real time, Encircle eliminates bureaucracy, boosts trust and enhances […]

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Encircle is a cloud-based app that bridges the gap between the traditional brick-and-mortar insurance companies and their policyholders through automation and modern visual communication tools to process claims faster. By utilizing a mobile phone’s camera and allowing all parties to track the progress of claims in real time, Encircle eliminates bureaucracy, boosts trust and enhances the overall experience for both insurers and customers.

Paul Donald, Encircle’s CEO and co-founder, envisions multiple future applications of the platform beyond insurance, in industries including engineering, construction and hospitality.

Read more about the company on Communitech News or visit the company website.

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Tech Roundup for November 2017 http://news.communitech.ca/news/monthly-news-roundup/tech-roundup-for-november-2017/ Mon, 04 Dec 2017 11:56:08 +0000 http://news.communitech.ca/?p=16519 Set your compass November’s first day was marked by an auspicious announcement from Communitech, namely the unveiling of True North Waterloo, a groundbreaking, three-day, international conference set to take place next May 29th at Kitchener’s Lot42, and peripherally throughout the downtown core. The theme for the event is the re-set of tech’s compass – the […]

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Set your compass

November’s first day was marked by an auspicious announcement from Communitech, namely the unveiling of True North Waterloo, a groundbreaking, three-day, international conference set to take place next May 29th at Kitchener’s Lot42, and peripherally throughout the downtown core.

The theme for the event is the re-set of tech’s compass – the re-establishment of tech as a force for good.

As if to highlight the urgent need for just such an event, on the same day that True North was announced, results emerged of a landmark survey identifying the extent of the gender gap among 900 Canadian tech firms. The sobering findings, detailed in the Globe and Mail and several other publications, included the eye-opening statistic that women hold only five per cent of CEO roles and only 13 per cent of executive positions.

Two weeks later, in an address to that very issue, federal Minister of Small Business and Tourism and Waterloo MP Bardish Chagger led off a Women in Tech luncheon at the Tannery Event Centre by announcing a $20-million increase in a BDC Capital-administered program that directs early investment to women-led Canadian companies.

And speaking of women-led endeavors, Lyndsey Butcher, Executive Director of SHORE Centre (formerly Planned Parenthood) launched her organization’s new web and mobile app, which makes it easier for women to access services, help and advice on pregnancy and sexual health. The app was developed pro bono by Kitchener-based software maker Zeitspace, and was the outgrowth of Butcher’s participation in Communitech’s Fierce Founders Bootcamp last January.

Smart cities, smart data, smart launches

The City of Kitchener was in the spotlight with the late-November launch of its Digital Kitchener Innovation Lab at Communitech, which aims to both deliver and leverage technology to make the city function better and at less cost. The lab’s director, Karl Allen-Muncey, a familiar face in the Waterloo tech ecosystem, was featured in a Q&A-style profile by Communitech News contributor Bill Bean.

Coincidentally, the City of Kitchener’s lab launch came on the heels of the federal government’s announcement of its $80-million Smart City Challenge, a program designed to spur municipal innovation with several cash prizes, including one for $50 million. Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic and Regional Chair Ken Seiling said during the Digital Kitchener Lab launch that municipal leaders will meet soon to prepare joint Smart City Challenge bids.

The guidelines for the Smart Cities Challenge were drawn up, by the way, with assistance from Kitchener-based IoT company Miovision and its CEO and co-founder, Kurtis McBride. McBride’s commitment to smart cities was further evident in a story by online magazine Motherboard, which writes that data collected by Miovision played a role in a recent decision by Toronto city council to make temporary bike lanes along Bloor Street permanent.

Related to smart cities, AI and big data, the Province of Ontario launched the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network, an $80-million project that will test smart cars in real-life traffic in Stratford.

Meanwhile mining big data as it relates to automobiles was part and parcel of a November lab launch by Carproof at Communitech.

But pursuit of technological change in the automobile vertical is by no means the sole purview of North American initiatives: Waterloo Region’s RideCo has entered into a partnership with Grab in the launch of an on-demand shuttle service in Singapore.

On the fast track

Deloitte released its annual Technology Fast 50 list and six Waterloo Region companies made the cut, including TextNow, Axonify, eSentire, Magnet Forensics, Sortable and Vidyard. TextNow, meanwhile, celebrated the 100th million download of its app, and its recent growth was the subject of an engaging update on Communitech News.

Speaking of fast, the real estate and investment firm CBRE says that Waterloo Region, which added 8,400 tech jobs from 2011 to 2016, is Canada’s fastest growing region for technology talent and second-fastest in North America. The news arrived via the CBRE’s just-released 2017 Scoring Canadian Tech Talent Report.

And still with talent, the CBC reports that the Global Skills Strategy, a federal program launched last June to provide a fast-track for Canadian companies to hire skilled foreign tech workers, has generated approvals for 1,600 new tech workers in its first 2 ½ months.

Tech on stage

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took part in a Q&A style forum at Google’s Go North summit in Toronto, held at the Evergreen Brick Works complex, and afterward led a roundtable discussion with some of the biggest names in the AI vertical, including Geoffrey Hinton, recognized as one of the pioneers in machine learning.

And two decades of tech were feted at Communitech’s annual general meeting, to mark the organization’s 20th anniversary. In a related vein, don’t miss the November finale of the Communitech @20 series of stories, which traces Communitech’s journey from its early roots.

Cash is king

Dejero, the Waterloo-based maker of blended video transport technology, announced a successful $32 million Series B raise led by Kayne Partners,  the Los Angeles-based private equity arm of Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors LP.

Even as Kayne was preparing to write a cheque, 43 of the most investment-ready startups from the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor were in the Valley looking for cheques of their own, pitching to more than 100 U.S. and Canadian VC firms at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. The event was arranged by a consortium of the Corridor’s leading incubators and accelerators, including the University of Waterloo’s Velocity and Communitech.

And speaking of Velocity, four companies, including Envoi, NanoCnet, ShiftRide and Tabnex, earned $25,000 and space in the Garage at Velocity’s $125,000 pitch competition at the end of the month. ShiftRide, additionally, launched it’s car-sharing app on the iOS store; the app gives users access to parked vehicles belonging to other people for short trips.

Still with Velocity, SomaDetect and Qidni Labs weren’t the only companies with a connection to the Waterloo Region ecosystem to emerge as prize winners at Buffalo’s 43North competition, which we reported on in October’s Tech Roundup. So, too, did Velocity’s Suncayr, maker of a smart, wearable patch that changes colour to indicate when sunscreen is no longer effective. Suncayr earned US$500,000 at the event.

Finally, on the topic of money, don’t miss the piece by Terry Pender in The Waterloo Region Record about the “low-key but significant role” being played in the Waterloo Region tech ecosystem by the Investment Accelerator Fund, now administered by MaRS. The fund, which marks its 10th anniversary next year, has helped 30 area companies get funding assistance.

Incidentally, MaRS IAF, along with Toronto-based Stand Up Ventures, was behind a $2-million investment last month in Kitchener-based construction software startup Bridgit.

In other news

  • A U.S. jury in Marshall, Texas, has ruled that Waterloo’s Sandvine did not infringe on three patents, as alleged by plaintiff Packet Intelligence LLC, in a disallowed court claim for nearly US$14 million in damages.
  • Aiming to boost the financial technology sector, the Ontario government announced it is easing regulations and launching an agency called the Ontario FinTech Accelerator Office.
  • Waterloo’s Eleven-X, which provides a low-power network servicing the Internet of Things, has partnered with QMC, based in B.C., on smart water metering solutions.
  • Still with water meter technology, the City of Welland has approved a partnership with Kitchener’s Alert Labs, and is offering a $100 incentive to residents who purchase Alert Labs products, as a water conservation measure.
  • FlyGTA, looking to ease travel along the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor, has launched a 20-minute air service twice a day from Region of Waterloo’s Breslau airport to Toronto’s downtown Billy Bishop Airport. Flights cost $129 one way.

Subscribe to get the Roundup delivered to your inbox on the first Sunday of each month.

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HockeyTech Announces Key Management Promotions http://news.communitech.ca/news/members/hockeytech-announces-key-management-promotions/ Thu, 30 Nov 2017 16:39:42 +0000 http://news.communitech.ca/?p=16512 Waterloo, Ontario (November 30, 2017) – HockeyTech, the worldwide leader in providing technologies for the sport of hockey, today announced several promotions and changes to its key management team. In order to better integrate the company’s operations, HockeyTech successfully consolidated its Boston area broadcast center into its Waterloo Ontario headquarters over this past summer. This […]

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Waterloo, Ontario (November 30, 2017) – HockeyTech, the worldwide leader in providing technologies for the sport of hockey, today announced several promotions and changes to its key management team. In order to better integrate the company’s operations, HockeyTech successfully consolidated its Boston area broadcast center into its Waterloo Ontario headquarters over this past summer. This consolidation necessitated several changes to the company’s organizational structure to continue to manage the company’s growth and it 70 plus employees.

Dan Halliburton is the company’s new Vice President of Business Development and will report to HockeyTech Founder/CEO Stu Siegel. Dan joined HockeyTech in 2013 upon the acquisition of RinkNet, which he had joined in 2009. He has served as the company’s most senior sales and customer relationship resource, and he has played a key part in the growth of HockeyTech. Prior to joining HockeyTech, Dan was the Director of Scouting for the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit from 2002-2009.

Jeremy Reed is the company’s new Vice President of Operations and will report to HockeyTech COO Jim Price. Jeremy joined HockeyTech in 2015 as the company’s Customer Success Manager, and was promoted to Customer Success Director in 2016. He has been charged with building an integrated team to support all of the elements that touch HockeyTech customers on a day-to-day basis. Prior to joining HockeyTech, Jeremy served in management roles at Communitech, Desire2Learn and OpenText.

Laura Torchia is the company’s new Director of Human Resources and will report to HockeyTech COO Jim Price. Laura joined HockeyTech in 2015 as an HR Generalist, implementing all HR functions in our Canadian office. With the headquarters consolidation, Laura is now charged with the entire company’s HR operations and community relations. Prior to joining HockeyTech, Laura served in HR roles at Cleaver-Brooks, Guardsmark, and Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.

As part of the strategic decision to consolidate HockeyTech’s operations into Canada, the company’s President Marc Ruskin and Chief HR Officer Linda Buth will change their roles with the company to consultants. Being US-based, Marc, Linda and HockeyTech founder Stu Siegel agreed that continuing in significant operating roles was not in any party’s best interests. Marc was the founder of FASTHockey, which HockeyTech acquired in 2015. Soon thereafter, Marc was appointed as the company’s President and has since played a pivotal role in the growth of HockeyTech. Linda joined HockeyTech in 2015 to integrate the HR functions, office consolidation and culture of the company after HockeyTech’s five acquisitions. Her accomplishments were key to our headquarters relocation to Waterloo and the creation of who HockeyTech is today culturally.

“As company’s grow and adapt, management change is necessary”, said HockeyTech Founder/CEO Stu Siegel. “We have been so fortunate to develop a strong bench on our team of people ready to step up and assume new leadership positions at HockeyTech to continue our rapid growth.”

About HockeyTech
HockeyTech is the worldwide leader in providing technologies for the sport of hockey. HockeyTech was founded in 2012 by Stu Siegel, a technology entrepreneur and former Florida Panthers (NHL) Managing Partner/CEO. HockeyTech has made five company acquisitions to date, integrating and developing one-of-a-kind hockey-focused tools.

HockeyTech Website: HockeyTech.com
FOLLOW HockeyTech on Twitter: @HockeyTech
LIKE HockeyTech on Facebook: Facebook.com/HockeyTech

Company Contact:
Stu Siegel
(519) 746-7200 ext. 255
ssiegel@HockeyTech.com

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LaunchSpot.io Acquired by Hockeystick to Boost Product Offering for Accelerators http://news.communitech.ca/news/members/launchspot-io-acquired-by-hockeystick-to-boost-product-offering-for-accelerators/ Wed, 29 Nov 2017 21:00:12 +0000 http://news.communitech.ca/?p=16507 LaunchSpot.io Acquired by Hockeystick to Boost Product Offering for Accelerators Waterloo Region, Ontario, November 29th, 2017 – LaunchSpot.io, a Waterloo Region-based software-as-a-service product has been acquired by Hockeystick. LaunchSpot.io is used by startup ecosystems to automate and simplify how startup ecosystems connect companies with mentors, track their progress and report to funders. Top startup ecosystems […]

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LaunchSpot.io Acquired by Hockeystick to Boost Product Offering for Accelerators

Waterloo Region, Ontario, November 29th, 2017 – LaunchSpot.io, a Waterloo Region-based software-as-a-service product has been acquired by Hockeystick. LaunchSpot.io is used by startup ecosystems to automate and simplify how startup ecosystems connect companies with mentors, track their progress and report to funders.

Top startup ecosystems across Canada have adopted LaunchSpot’s flexible technology to change the way they communicate with their companies, share ideas, manage growth and analyze key insights.

Hockeystick is Canada’s leading private market data network and with this strategic acquisition of LaunchSpot it will accelerate the development of Hockeystick’s product offering for innovation organizations — accelerators, incubators and innovation hubs.

“This acquisition is a great win for innovation organizations. I am confident that LaunchSpot will thrive in its next phase with Hockeystick,” said Rob Darling, LaunchSpot’s Founder and CEO. “By leveraging Hockeystick’s market leadership, expertise and partnership with the Lazaridis Institute, LaunchSpot’s technology will be quickly utilized by more innovation organizations across Canada and around the world.”

“With the acquisition of LaunchSpot, Hockeystick will now offer a suite of operations and data tools for innovation organizations,” said Raymond Luk, Hockeystick’s Founder and CEO. “LaunchSpot is a proven product with a similar customer base and we look forward to expanding its reach and scale through our network.”

Hockeystick will continue to offer the product as a stand-alone service and will take over its development and maintenance. The company will also be added to Hockeystick’s backend infrastructure.

Thanks to Hockeystick’s partnership with the Lazaridis Institute, Canadian accelerators will now have the option to use LaunchSpot free of charge.

“This acquisition by Hockeystick builds on the exciting partnership we announced in April of this year — to create a national data platform for private companies,” said Kim Morouney, Managing Director of the Lazaridis Institute at Wilfrid Laurier University. “We’re pleased that the added functionality announced today will further increase the value of the platform to accelerators and incubators across the country.”

About LaunchSpot
LaunchSpot is a platform that helps startup ecosystems connect companies with mentors, track company progress and report to funders. LaunchSpot was funded by Communitech Hyperdrive accelerator for early stage startups in 2013.
www.launchspot.io

About Hockeystick
Hockeystick is a financial market data network that provides deep insight into private companies. Hockeystick’s network connects a firm’s financial data directly to the venture capital, private equity and innovation ecosystems. Fund managers and analysts use Hockeystick to accurately track, compare and predict company performance. More than 12,000 private companies and top Canadian funders belong to the Hockeystick network. www.hockeystick.co

About the Lazaridis Institute
The Lazaridis Institute is focused on a specific national challenge – the need for more globally competitive technology companies in Canada. The Institute helps Canadian technology companies reach their next level of growth through world-class support in the Scale-Up Program, through front-line training in the Tech Sales Apprenticeship initiative, and through a global network of business and technology experts who provide mentorship, connections, and valuable experience.
www.lazaridisinstitute.com

Media Inquiries
Laura Curk, Marketing Manager
Hockeystick
(647) 283-2906
lcurk@hockeystick.co

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Waterloo’s Dejero raises $32 million in Series B round http://news.communitech.ca/news/waterloos-dejero-raises-32-million-in-series-b-round/ Tue, 28 Nov 2017 20:38:10 +0000 http://news.communitech.ca/?p=16500 Aiming to fuel rapid growth and broaden into markets associated with the Internet of Things, Dejero, the Waterloo-based maker of blended video transport technology, has completed a $32-million Series B fundraising round led by Kayne Partners, the companies announced Tuesday. Kayne is the Los Angeles-based private equity arm of Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors LP. Also […]

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Aiming to fuel rapid growth and broaden into markets associated with the Internet of Things, Dejero, the Waterloo-based maker of blended video transport technology, has completed a $32-million Series B fundraising round led by Kayne Partners, the companies announced Tuesday.

Kayne is the Los Angeles-based private equity arm of Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors LP. Also taking part in the raise was Intelsat of Luxembourg. Intelsat is a collaborating partner with Dejero in its CellSat connectivity technology.

Dejero, which has now raised nearly $50 million this year, provides media companies with fast, reliable connectivity for their video and broadcast feeds via a blend of cellular, satellite and IP connections. CEO Bruce Anderson, who joined the company last February, said that the company plans to put the new money to work by aggressively penetrating markets associated with “connected cities, connected vehicles, the Internet of Things.

“There’s no way that isn’t relevant or necessary [for us],” said Anderson.

Dejero was founded in 2008 by Bogdan Frusina and has grown quickly. The company, which raised $14 million earlier this year from Wellington Financial and was recently ranked No. 53 on the PROFIT 500 list of Canada’s fastest growing companies, has a satellite office in Buffalo and employs 93 people, most of whom are based in Waterloo.

There are plans afoot, Anderson said, to add another 50 employees within the next 12 months.

“[We’re looking for] developers, technology people, we’re looking for network people – and some business development people to take us into these new markets. It is quite ambitious.”

Anderson, who is originally from South Africa, has been impressed with what he’s seen of Waterloo Region’s ecosystem, particularly when it comes to available talent, but said the competition for talent can be daunting.

“Waterloo is a great environment, obviously, for tech businesses. It’s thriving. [But] it’s a bit depressing in the context of trying to get people, at the moment. The talent [shortage] is very real in this ecosystem. Obviously, with our new plans we’re looking for talent, so that’s a challenge.”

As part of the financing round Leon Chen and Rob Shilton of Kayne Partners will join Dejero’s board of directors, as will Michael DeMarco, Intelsat’s Executive Vice-President of Operations.

 

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City with smarts: Q&A with Digital Kitchener Lab Director Karl Allen-Muncey http://news.communitech.ca/news/city-with-smarts-qa-with-digital-kitchener-lab-director-karl-allen-muncey/ Tue, 28 Nov 2017 18:44:56 +0000 http://news.communitech.ca/?p=16491 The City of Kitchener unveiled its Digital Kitchener Innovation Lab space Tuesday at Communitech. Lab Director Karl Allen-Muncey took some time to respond to some questions about the over-emphasis on “disruption,” the city’s hopes for thelab, what he brings to the table and, speaking of tables, his pick for the town’s best place to eat. […]

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The City of Kitchener unveiled its Digital Kitchener Innovation Lab space Tuesday at Communitech. Lab Director Karl Allen-Muncey took some time to respond to some questions about the over-emphasis on “disruption,” the city’s hopes for thelab, what he brings to the table and, speaking of tables, his pick for the town’s best place to eat.

Q – If it’s all about disruption, how will disruption help the City of Kitchener solve its first Big Problem, and what other areas will the lab be exploring?

A – In my personal opinion, disruption is an overused term, and, as with innovation, should only be used when there is context to verify its use. In respect to where we are as a municipality, we are incredibly fortunate and uniquely positioned to have access to some incredible technologies and relationships though this community. The first program, which not only spurred on, but funded, this lab, is the city-wide conversion to LED street lighting, and although innovative in terms of financial efficiency, the addition of adaptive controls is allowing us to have access to our own cross-city mesh network, which will act as the backbone of an IoT framework of sensors … We will be activating this network for internal development shortly, and will soon after be working with other partners and developing our own technical use cases, hardware and software.

Q – Tech veterans often speak of the slowness of the public sector. How agile does the Innovation Lab hope to be?

A – We’re fast, because we are enabled to be. We’ve already seen that there are some interesting efficiencies and opportunities created by having an external lab, the first being a cultural one: Having a location dedicated to thinking differently, and perhaps trying to take a different approach, it has also encouraged conversations about how to potentially use the resources we have available in new ways.

Q – How deep does the City of Kitchener hope that the transformative experience will go?

A – It doesn’t need to be transformative, as much as it needs to be progressive in a way that creates value and is sustainable. The innovation process works best when the outcome is a direct reflection of the metrics, research and insight that created the innovation case in the first place. But to identify where innovation is possible, you need to have insight and be able to work with technologies and processes that might not even yet be on the municipal radar… and to this end, I have developed a split mandate for the lab that allows for multiple areas for us to concentrate and work our efforts around. From reinforcing core smart city initiatives of the city … to community facilitation and city workers, on what it takes to make Kitchener a better place to live, work and play . . . to identifying more speculative technologies, testing and seeing whether there is a place to apply them to a municipal framework. So overall, there is a lot of depth, from concept to delivery and support … We are going to aim to be as transparent with our efforts, findings and projects as possible, and will also be taking an open-source and open-data approach to our work, where possible, to help other municipalities learn and grow from the unique work we are doing.

Q – What are the timeline expectations for the lab?

A – [City] council has been incredibly supportive of this venture, and through the transparency and planning aspects of the lab, we are going to be in regular contact with the council teams. The timeline expectations, as originally mapped out through council, and the relationship with Communitech, is to create a lab and embark on a three-year initiative on various innovation identified projects. We are extremely happy with the initial work that we have undertaken … as we have identified categories of innovation cases, set a split-level mandate for the lab, created the foundation team and project maps, multiple speaking opportunities and international smart city conversations, and are participating in ongoing smart city research initiatives, while at the same time strengthening our relationship with Communitech, the local tech eco-system, companies and partners.

Q – The tech ecosystem here in Kitchener has been bubbling along for 25 years. Why plunge directly into the ecosystem as a participant now?

A – Kitchener has always had a good history of working with the local tech ecosystem and embraced initiatives that foster and encourage the tech ecosystem. You only have to look at some of the tech companies and brands that have chosen to call Kitchener home, or refuse incentivized offers to move away … and that’s because Kitchener “gets it.” The decision to start an innovation lab wasn’t a fashionable one: there are clearly areas that need new environments, resources and skills to be able to execute on some of these new initiatives. It really is an exciting time to be with the city, and indeed, in Kitchener.

Q – What could other innovation labs learn from Kitchener’s participation in the space?

A – The incredible part of being part of the innovation lab ecosystem is that there is a genuine interest in transparency and sharing of insights. Every lab has a different team structure, mandate, and in most cases, motivation for their labs. However, when we get together, and share or collaborate our individual situations, it always gives each of us an opportunity to learn … We hope to add value to these relationships and share our work and findings with those that are perhaps, not directly linked to the Communitech innovation ecosystem, but to the Innovation Lab and Smart City ecosystems at large.

Q – With governments committed to open data, what do you hope the lab will do to stimulate and support innovation in the open data space?

A – We are already active and participate with Communitech and ODX, however are also becoming far more involved in creating open source and open data measures in that wider space. As you can imagine data management does not just act as a source of information, but also has (in some cases) some pretty big security aspects — so we need to make sure that we conform to all of the necessary standards and requirements that a municipality is required to conform to.

Q – Will other municipal partners — the Region of Waterloo, the cities of Waterloo and Cambridge, the townships, the school boards — have any role in the lab?

A – The lab exists as an initiative solely funded by the City of Kitchener, however the insights and opportunities we have to collaborate are vast, and to that end and in the interests of collaboration, we will, of course, be embarking on initiatives and knowledge-sharing that involves or benefits our neighbours. There are, of course, obvious opportunities to leverage the foundations and learning of this lab at a wider geographic and regional level.

Q – For the developer, engineer or intern coming to you with a “Big Idea,” what question(s) should they have the answer(s) for?

A – I would always ask for a solid “Why?” The benefits, tangible or otherwise, and sustainability plan. And of course, that all gets overruled by the “How?” What resources would be required to make it a reality?

Q – What does Karl Allen-Muncey bring to the Innovation Lab?

A – Originally from the UK, I have a mixed entrepreneurial background, founded in technology, startups, business development and growth … As a director of a lab such as this, you need to have access to multiple skills and experience, ranging from concept and research, to delivery. I have found that by having a strong foundational knowledge in tech, conversation facilitation, marketing and product development, I’ve been able to apply many different skills to these roles, from grant writing and mandate development, to speaking opportunities and hardware fabrication.

Q – Who is Karl Allen-Muncey in five factoids: best place to eat, best place to take the kids, best place to de-stress, best way to get to work, best thing about the “new” Kitchener.

A – 1. Best place to eat: The Belmont, in Belmont Village. I can never order anything other than the Chicken and Waffles; 2. Best place to take the kids: My little girls are 2 ½ and seven months, but growing rapidly. You’ll usually find us in the park, the backyard, at the library or in one of the many awesome coffee shops in the area, with Americanos and steamed milk. 3. Best place to de-stress: I have a nice little hammock in the shade between two trees [at his St. Agatha home]; 4. Best way to get to work: Triumph Bonneville (motorcycle), or bicycling on a nice road bike; and 5. Best thing about the “new” Kitchener: Arts, Culture, Technology, Families, Design, Good Coffee, and Good Beer: Communities are mixed environments and need to have many things in place to attract and retain the best kinds of people. I think we have a new, or renewed, appreciation for the diversity and experiences in our community.

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Dejero Completes Major Finance Deal to Advance Product Development, Global Growth and Entry into New Markets http://news.communitech.ca/news/members/dejero-completes-major-finance-deal-to-advance-product-development-global-growth-and-entry-into-new-markets/ Tue, 28 Nov 2017 18:14:11 +0000 http://news.communitech.ca/?p=16473 Dejero, an innovator in blending IP networks for video transport and Internet connectivity while mobile or in remote locations, has announced significant new financing to accelerate its product development roadmap and its global expansion into the broadcast and media market. The investment will be used largely to fund development and commercialization of Dejero’s blended connectivity […]

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Dejero, an innovator in blending IP networks for video transport and Internet connectivity while mobile or in remote locations, has announced significant new financing to accelerate its product development roadmap and its global expansion into the broadcast and media market. The investment will be used largely to fund development and commercialization of Dejero’s blended connectivity solutions into new markets.

The investment of CAD$32 million comes from Kayne Partners, the growth private equity arm of Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors LP, an investment firm managing approximately $25 billion in assets and satellite leader Intelsat. Intelsat, a strategic investor, provides integrated satellite communications on a global basis and is already a collaborating partner in the Dejero CellSat solution, which intelligently combines cellular connectivity from multiple mobile network providers with Ku-band IP satellite connectivity.

Dejero’s solutions provide reliable connectivity by blending cellular, satellite and other IP connections from multiple network providers to deliver the bandwidth required to exchange high throughput, low latency video and data. Its cloud-managed solutions are used by news organizations to report live from around the world, and to provide Internet connectivity in remote locations or while mobile.

“We are impressed with Dejero’s rapid growth and worldwide success, which are clearly driven by its unique network blending technology that solves connectivity challenges in portable, in-vehicle and fixed location scenarios,” said Leon Chen, Managing Director at Kayne Partners. “This investment will allow Dejero to bring its innovative thinking more quickly to market and further extend its position as market leader.” As part of this financing round, Leon and Rob Shilton, also of Kayne Partners, will be joining the Dejero board of directors.

Also joining the board is Michael DeMarco, Intelsat’s Executive Vice President of Operations, who commented: “following the success of our recent partnership that brought the Dejero CellSat solution to market, we’ve made a strategic investment that will accelerate our collaboration on additional multi-network connectivity solutions for our customers.”

Bruce Anderson, CEO of Dejero, explained “Simple, fast, cost-effective and highly reliable connectivity is vital in today’s interconnected world, and is becoming ever more so through natural progressions such as connected vehicles and the internet of things. With this funding we see huge opportunities to deliver a broader range of blended connectivity solutions and services, not only to our traditional market of broadcast and media, but to other markets where reliable, flexible connectivity is just as vital.
“Our existing collaboration with Intelsat is greatly enhanced by this investment, which we value as an endorsement of our skills in innovation and delivery,” Anderson added. “Kayne brings to the table a new set of insights and connections which will also drive strong growth.”

 

About Dejero
Driven by its vision of reliable connectivity anywhere, Dejero blends multiple Internet connections to deliver fast and dependable connectivity required for cloud computing, online collaboration, and the secure exchange of video and data. With its global partners, Dejero supplies the equipment, software, connectivity services, cloud services, and support to provide the uptime and bandwidth critical to the success of today’s organizations. Headquartered in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, Dejero is trusted for broadcast-quality video transport and high-bandwidth Internet connectivity around the world. For more information, visit www.dejero.com.

About Intelsat
Intelsat S.A. (NYSE: I) operates the world’s first Globalized Network, delivering high-quality, cost-effective video and broadband services anywhere in the world. Intelsat’s Globalized Network combines the world’s largest satellite backbone with terrestrial infrastructure, managed services and an open, interoperable architecture to enable customers to drive revenue and reach through a new generation of network services. Thousands of organizations serving billions of people worldwide rely on Intelsat to provide ubiquitous broadband connectivity, multi-format video broadcasting, secure satellite communications and seamless mobility services. The end result is an entirely new world, one that allows us to envision the impossible, connect without boundaries and transform the ways in which we live. For more information, visit www.intelsat.com.

About Kayne Partners
Kayne Partners is a leading provider of capital and connections to rapidly growing companies in North America. Since its inception more than a decade ago, it has invested over $600 million in platform investments and add-on acquisitions. Kayne Partners seeks to partner with driven entrepreneurs as a non-control minority investor and provide transformative capital to these high growth companies. Kayne Partners is the growth private equity group of Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors, L.P. For more information, please visit our website: www.kaynepartners.com.

About Kayne Anderson
Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors, L.P., founded in 1984, is a leading alternative investment management firm focused on niche investing in upstream oil and gas companies, energy and infrastructure, specialized real estate, growth equity and both private credit and diversified liquid credit. Kayne Anderson manages $24.5 billion in assets (as of September 30, 2017) and employs over 300 professionals. Kayne Anderson is headquartered in Los Angeles with offices in Houston, New York City, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Atlanta and Boca Raton. For more information, please visit www.kaynecapital.com.

All trademarks appearing herein are the property of their respective owners.

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Kitchener embraces Internet of Things with new digital innovation lab http://news.communitech.ca/news/kitchener-embraces-internet-of-things-with-new-digital-innovation-lab/ Tue, 28 Nov 2017 18:02:31 +0000 http://news.communitech.ca/?p=16474 Imagine a smart city where a network of connected sensors links every streetscape, tracking water main security, street light intensity, traffic conditions and even the volume of garbage in waste bins. Imagine that the City of Kitchener is that connected, smart city. Kitchener, the city once known for producing harnesses, boots, tires and buttons, is […]

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Imagine a smart city where a network of connected sensors links every streetscape, tracking water main security, street light intensity, traffic conditions and even the volume of garbage in waste bins.

Imagine that the City of Kitchener is that connected, smart city.

Kitchener, the city once known for producing harnesses, boots, tires and buttons, is taking a step into the future with the launch of Ontario’s first municipal innovation lab dedicated to exploring the Internet of Things.

Headed by Lab Director Karl Allen-Muncey, and soon to be joined by a growing team of data science co-op students, the Digital Kitchener Innovation Lab launched Tuesday in the Back Alley innovation space at Communitech. The 150-some guests who crowded into the high-ceilinged work space included Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic and councillors Scott Davey, Frank Etherington, John Gazzola, Sarah Marsh, and Dave Schnider; Woolwich Mayor Sandy Shantz; Regional Chair Ken Seiling; and Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife, along with representatives from Waterloo Region Police Service, Kitchener Fire Department, Kitchener Wilmot Hydro, Kitchener Public Library and members of the local tech ecosystem.

The Mayor told the crowd that the Innovation Lab was one step toward “making Kitchener a place where people can make a good living and live a good life.”

In an interview, Vrbanovic said the lab will help the city “compete with other leading regions in the world in terms of Smart City technology, and this is a big step in that direction for not only Kitchener, but for the region as a whole.”

The Innovation Lab will explore and test new ideas that will raise the game for Kitchener in four areas: efficiency (streamlining procedures), cost (savings and revenue generation), insight (data to support decision-making) and user experience (improving services for the public), Allen-Muncey told the crowd.

“This lab is uniquely positioned for success,” Allen-Muncey said.

Q&A with Lab Director Karl Allen-Muncey

The new Lab Director, formerly a mentor with Wilfrid Laurier University’s tech incubator program and lab director for media giant Postmedia’s Innovation Outpost and Development Lab, explained the lab’s unique and divided responsibilities: 70 per cent of lab time invested in the core city initiatives, 20 per cent spent engaging with the community, and 10 per cent invested in exploring new technologies.

That core initiative is the completion and development of the City of Kitchener Internet of Things, the backbone of which is based on the recent city-wide switch to adaptive control LED street lighting. The lighting system provides the city with its own local mesh network, where infrastructure access points and relays allow data to be shared and transmitted around the city.

“The Internet of Things is a huge arena, and it’s a gargantuan task to undertake at a city-wide level,” Allen-Muncey said.

The Internet of Things is the descriptor for a network created when the devices are embedded with tech that both acquire data (through sensors) and enable connection to each other (in an intranet) or other devices (typically, the wider internet).

Instead of having eyes on every street checking to see if garbage cans need to be emptied, connected sensors could alert the trash removal team. More sophisticated undertakings could track street crime or help inform decision-making on community services delivery. Coun. Davey told the crowd that Kitchener would become a city “that senses when something’s wrong before its citizens do.”

Allen-Muncey and the Lab have a three-year mandate to explore and implement such municipal innovations to make Kitchener a smarter city. The lab’s first two co-op students— a computer science student and software engineering student, both from the University of Guelph — join him in January, with more hires expected in the new year.

The lab launch is timely. The federal government this month launched its Smart Cities Challenge, offering $80 million for communities that use tech to improve the urban experience.

In the news release announcing the program, Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, said, “This challenge — the first of its kind in Canada — will encourage communities to innovate and take risks to improve people’s lives. Across the country, communities large and small are bursting with new ideas. The Smart Cities Challenge will help bring them to life….”

Vrbanovic and Seiling said in interviews that the area’s top municipal politicians will be meeting soon to prepare a joint bid for $50-million top prize.

The fact that Kitchener-based Miovision was one of the Canadian companies that guided Ottawa in creating the guidelines for the Smart Cities Challenge, doesn’t mean this area has an edge on the competition.

But the Innovation Lab is a major step in same direction that the federal initiative is supporting.

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IMS Named a Top Employer in Waterloo Region http://news.communitech.ca/news/members/ims-named-a-top-employer-in-waterloo-region/ Mon, 27 Nov 2017 18:31:08 +0000 http://news.communitech.ca/?p=16468 IMS has been selected as a 2018 Top Employer in Waterloo Region by Canada’s Top 100 Employer Competition. Intelligent Mechatronic Systems (IMS), a leading connected car services and analytics provider to insurers, governments and enterprises, has been selected as one of Waterloo Region’s top employers for 2018. The competition recognizes employers in the Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge and […]

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IMS has been selected as a 2018 Top Employer in Waterloo Region by Canada’s Top 100 Employer Competition. Intelligent Mechatronic Systems (IMS), a leading connected car services and analytics provider to insurers, governments and enterprises, has been selected as one of Waterloo Region’s top employers for 2018. The competition recognizes employers in the Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge and Guelph area that offer exceptional workplace environments.

Employees of Waterloo, Ontario-based IMS design technology that connects vehicles to drivers, delivering services that make driving safer, smarter and greener. IMS’ award-winning connected car technology is at the intersection of a growing ecosystem that complements developments in smart cities, smart cars and autonomous vehicles.

IMS was selected for a number of reasons, including its:
• Highly diverse workforce that regularly celebrates cultural differences and includes over
50% female employees
• “Breakfast days” featuring meals freshly prepared by a local chef
• Regular vision lunches with the CEO and focus group employee communication initiatives
• Family-friendly support such as flexible return date for new parents and pregnancy leave
top-up programs
• Employee development that includes mentorship, training and a unique “Buddy System”
• Community involvement which includes the Adopt-a-Road program and a long list of local
charitable activities

“At IMS, our goal is to build a workplace environment with a strong sense of family and a corporate culture that focuses on our core values of innovation, integrity, diversity, commitment and trust,” said Dr. Otman Basir, CEO and Founder of IMS. “Having the honor of receiving both Canada’s Top Employer award and Waterloo’s Top Employer awards this year showcases the commitment and dedication our employees have in building a leading workplace environment.”

“IMS recognizes that it operates in a competitive tech space in one of Canada’s most dynamic and forward-thinking cities,” said Jeoff Shiekh, Chief Corporate Officer at IMS. “Our employees are our primary asset. We strive to improve year-over-year in fostering a creative, vigorous and motivated employee base.”

IMS is also a long-term participant in co-operative education programs, and has received past coop Top Employer awards from the University of Waterloo. As a top talent employer, IMS is always on the look-out for creative individuals and innovative minds to apply online at: www.intellimec.com/careers

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