Thalmic Labs co-founders

(Left to right) Thalmic Labs co-founders Stephen Lake, Matthew Bailey and Aaron Grant. (Photo: Peter Power for Communitech)

Swinging for the fences

As summer gives way to fall, nothing says back to business like a USD$120-million funding round. Thalmic Labs announced exactly that on Sept. 19, as it gears up to expand its product offering beyond the futuristic Myo armband it released in 2014. We talked to CEO Stephen Lake about the raise, which followed news that Thalmic had opened a San Francisco office and hired a new Chief Marketing Officer.

Season of growth

While Thalmic’s raise made the biggest splash, it was one among several Waterloo Region companies eyeing major growth in September.

Dozr, a Communitech Rev accelerator startup that’s been racking up clients on its heavy-equipment rental platform, secured CAD$2.5 million in investment from FairVentures, one of Communitech’s corporate innovation partners, in a match made at the Hub.

Tulip Retail CEO Ali Asaria – the innovator behind Well.ca and, in a long-ago life, the Brickbreaker game for BlackBerry – reported a five-fold surge in Tulip’s headcount as the company sets out to equip the world’s workers with powerful mobile software.

LogiSense, a Cambridge-based company that helps clients monetize machine-to-machine communications on the Internet of Things, is seeing 40 per cent growth year-over-year, and expects to hire another 30 people in the coming year.

Meanwhile, Industry Corporation – currently enrolled in the Christie Digital Media Accelerator at the Communitech Hub – is looking to expand on the early success of Spark, a software platform that enables users to manage content on all manner of digital signage and displays. CEO Andrew Matlock sat down for an interview about the company’s push into Asia as it works to claim a chunk of a $100-billion global market.

Big and bigger

Of course, growth isn’t just for smaller companies. OpenText, which spun out of a University of Waterloo project to digitize the Oxford English Dictionary 25 years ago to become one of Canada’s largest software companies, made its biggest acquisition to date with a USD$1.62-billion deal to buy Dell-EMC’s enterprise content division.

Shopify, the Ottawa-headquartered e-commerce juggernaut, also celebrated its ongoing expansion as it threw a party at its new Waterloo office in the former Seagram Museum, where its Shopify Plus division is housed.

Meeting the challenge

How to achieve growth in an era of sluggish economic performance globally was the focus of the Waterloo Innovation Summit, which brought 300 attendees to the University of Waterloo and Communitech for two days of discussion.

Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, told the crowd the country’s destiny need not be one of slow growth if it can boost its innovative output, pledging that the federal government will become a better customer for Canadian startups.

Bains and colleague Bardish Chagger, the government’s House Leader and Minister of Small Business and Tourism, have been touring the country to gather input on their forthcoming Innovation Agenda. Our columnist Julie Garner sat down with Chagger to talk about it.

Talent will clearly play a huge role in the country’s innovative future, and the movement of skilled tech workers between Canada and the U.S. is a perennial focal point for the discussion. Now is the time for Canada to go prospecting for top minds abroad, as other countries waver on immigration, Iain Klugman and Kevin Lynch argued in a Globe and Mail op-ed. In a lengthier piece for iPolitics, Lynch further plumbed the topic of talent as a way to build a top-ranked tech ecosystem in Canada.

Meanwhile, the third annual student-organized Hack the North event brought 1,000 young participants from every continent except Antarctica to the University of Waterloo for a weekend marathon of making. The event kicked off with an appearance by billionaire Silicon Valley tech investor Vinod Khosla, who was outspoken as he addressed the students on a wide range of topics.

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About The Author

Anthony Reinhart
Director, Editorial Strategy
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Anthony Reinhart is a veteran journalist who left the Globe and Mail to join Communitech in 2011. Tony has covered everything from crime, politics and courts to business, the arts and sports, and his writing has won numerous journalism awards. He is Communitech's Director of Editorial Strategy and senior staff writer.