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PitchIt series comes to Durham region

PitchIt, an interactive pitch event designed to connect entrepreneurs with potential clients and angel investors, will be taking place at Durham College in Oshawa this week.
PitchItDurham will involve six to eight startups pitching for three minutes to two angel investors, two business leaders, and a live audience. Additionally, there will be a showcase of over 20 regional startups, followed by networking.
The PitchIt series was brought to the Durham region through a partnership formed by Open People Network, an organization of angel investors dedicated to accelerating growth, as well as FastStart Durham College, a program designed to help students launch their own business, and OPG X-Lab, a division of Ontario Power Generation (OPG).
Startups will pitch for three minutes to two angel investors, two business leaders, and a live audience.
Although the OPG X-Lab develops tech for the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, the lab will be attending the event, and looking into innovation and business ideas that go beyond the nuclear tech space. Durham College said the lab will be using PitchItDurham as a talent pool for interns, entrepreneurs, and businesses that they can help develop.
Entrepreneurs and members of the public are welcome to attend. PitchItDurham will be taking place at the Centre for Collaborative Education at Durham College, on March 27 from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets are free, but registration for the event is required and available here.
A PitchIt Workshop will be hosted on the same day and the organization stated that participants can register for the free one hour workshop on how to communicate business ideas to investors. Interested individuals can find the registration here.
PitchIt is still currently accepting applications from any type of business. The series will be taking place throughout the year at various venues, including YSpace Markham, Toronto City Hall, and Seneca.
Featured image courtesy Durham College.

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York University’s LaunchYU startup accelerator accepting applications

York University is now accepting applications for the newest cohort of its four month accelerator program, designed to support entrepreneurs in building, launching, and scaling their startup
A total of 20 startups, including up to five social ventures, will be selected to participate in the accelerator program. Since 2014, LaunchYU stated that its ventures have raised more than $12.5 million in external funding, and generated more than $3 million in revenue.
The program is organized into four one-month sprints: product market fit, pitching, go-to marketing strategy, and financing. Entrepreneurs will be able to engage in weekly boot camps and workshops, while benefiting from one-to-one mentorship, and investor pitch feedback sessions. Up to $55,000 in awards are available for participants during the program.
LaunchYU has also partnered with Infounders, an organization of entrepreneurs that offer advice and feedback on challenges in the startup industry.
The chosen startups will also have access to the Innovation York Perks package, which includes a $25,000 Aird & Berlis StartupSource Market Entry Award. The top startup will be awarded with $12,500, matched by an equal amount of Aird & Berlis’ StartupSource legal services.
Additionally, participants will meet and connect with angels, venture capitalists, and other investors.
LaunchYU alumni includes Candy Cutlery, a startup creating biodegradable edible utensils. The company represented Canada at the 2017 SAGE World Cup, a nationwide competition for youth entrepreneurs.
Oher previous cohort members include Swob, an app connecting students with part-time, seasonal, and full-time jobs in the retail, food services, and hospitality industries.
For-profit and not for profit ventures are able to apply. The program is not limited to tech companies, and participants do not need to be affiliated with York University to be accepted.
The deadline to apply is March 24, with the official program start date listed as May 2.
Individuals interested in applying can find the registration here.
Featured image courtesy LaunchYU Twitter.

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Waterloo wearables-tech company announces first shipment of “smart shirt”

Aexos (Advanced Exoskeletal Systems), a Kickstarter-funded wearables company based in Waterloo, has announced the first shipment of its wearables product, a “smart shirt” designed to reduce whiplash of the head and neck in high intensity sports.
Founded in 2015, Aexos is the designer of the Halo, a compression shirt that aims to provide neck and postural support for the user while playing sports, in order to reduce concussions. The company’s Kickstarter campaign raised just under $130,000 in September last year, surpassing its initial $100,000 goal.
“Our mission remains the same, enhance the safety of high-impact sports without compromising mobility or performance.”
The technology embedded in the collar is designed to stiffen upon detecting high-speed, abrupt head movement, which improves neck stability and reducing the risk of injury and concussion. Aexos said Halo reduces head movement during collisions by up to 46 percent, without affecting the range of motion or mobility of the athlete. The shirt seeks to provide neck support, while reducing stress placed upon the rest of the upper body.
Aexos has started shipping units to customers ordering Halo as well as Halo Junior, which is designed for children ages six and up. The Halo Cut-Proof Neck Guard, designed for hockey athletes, is currently available for pre-order only.
This announcement comes after Aexos signed an exclusive supplier deal with Canada Snowboard, allowing the national snowboard team access to Halo. Aexos has also entered into a partnership with Derek Livingston, two-time Canadian Olympic halfpipe snowboarder, and has signed a one-year contract with Brooke Voigt, Canadian Olympic slopestyle snowboarder.
Is wearable tech back? (CanCon ep. 134)

“From Halo’s initial launch on Kickstarter to professional athletes now wearing Halo in various sporting events, we’ve been met with an overwhelmingly positive response from the sports community,” said Charles Corrigan, co-founder and CEO of Aexos. “Our mission remains the same, enhance the safety of high-impact sports without compromising mobility or performance.”
Halo has been recognized by Safe4Sport, a division of the Stop Concussions Foundation, for the ability of its technology to improve the safety of athletes.
Featured image via Aexos.

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Report: Canadians willing to share data for personalized products, efficient services

A recent study revealed that nearly half of Canadian consumers would share personal information, such as location data and lifestyle habits, if it meant receiving more personalized and efficient products and services.
The Financial Services Consumer Study, conducted by Accenture, surveyed 47,000 banking and insurance customers across 28 countries in 2018; of the total surveyed, 2,000 were Canadian.
More than three-quarters of all respondents to the survey indicated that they would be willing to share data for discounts and competitive pricing.
The report split respondents into four categories: pioneers, pragmatists, skeptics, and traditionalists. Pioneers are listed as tech-savvy consumers, geared towards innovation. Pragmatists were defined as consumers who see technology as a means to an end, rather than a passion. Skeptics, tech-wary and generally dissatisfied with financial providers. Finally, traditionalists were listed as tech-avoiders, and usually of an older age group, according to the study.
Worldwide, more than three-quarters of all respondents to the survey, no matter their category, indicated that they would be willing to share data for discounts and competitive pricing.

The study specifically looked at consumers sharing data with banks and insurance companies. It found that although Canadians would be willing to exchange data for benefits such as more efficient, relevant products, lower prices, and more personalized offers, the majority maintain the importance of privacy. About 72 percent of those surveyed report being cautious about the privacy of their personal data. When asked what would make them leave their bank or insurer, consumers cited data security breaches and increasing costs.
Those surveyed stated they were most likely to exchange location data, lifestyle habits, and income data in order to receive competitive or lower prices, followed by a faster loan approval process, personalized offers based on location, and finally personalized services that help reduce the risk of injury or loss.

While Canadians seem willing to share their personal data, Canadian companies using that data may not have the knowledge or tools to properly handle that sensitive information. A report last year found that almost 40 percent of Canadian companies surveyed said they were unfamiliar with Canada’s federal privacy law, PIPEDA, which governs how businesses handle personal information of customers.
The Canadian Internet Registration Authority’s (CIRA) 2018 cybersecurity survey found that while 78 percent of companies said they were confident in their level of cyber threat preparedness, 37 percent admitted that they don’t have anti-malware protection installed that could help protect consumer data.
“Canadian consumers are willing to share their personal data in instances where it makes their lives easier.”
“Canadian consumers are willing to share their personal data in instances where it makes their lives easier, but remain cautious of exactly how their information is used,” noted Robert Vokes, managing director of financial services at Accenture Canada. “With this in mind, banks and insurers need to deliver hyper-relevant and highly convenient experience in order to remain relevant, retain trust, and win customer loyalty in a digital economy.”
The Accenture report stated that customers seem to believe the more information a provider can collect about a consumer, the easier it is to provide tailored products and services, along with more competitive pricing. However, the willingness of data-sharing often depends on the type of consumer as well as the benefit being offered. Pioneers were the most likely group to exchange their data for benefits, whereas, it comes to no surprise that, traditionalists were more opposed to the idea of sharing data.
It is suggested in the report that banks should consider creating stronger incentives to encourage customers to share their data. It noted that over time, consumers are likely to expect greater innovation in return for their data.

The use and sharing of personal data has become an increasing concern over the past couple years, with governments and policymakers taking note. Last month, the Ontario government announced plans to seek public input on a new data strategy, which focuses on helping businesses benefit from the digital economy, while making data privacy and protection a top priority. The province says it hopes to build a data strategy to prepare Ontarians and Ontario businesses for “the rapidly advancing era of Big Data”.
In 2018, the federal government also announced its intention to develop a national data strategy, setting aside $572.5 million over five years in Budget 2018, however, mention of the data strategy was notably lacking in yesterday’s 2019 federal budget announcement.
With more focus and changes to national and international consumer data privacy laws VCs are also more increasingly asking startups about their data and privacy management policies; a change from last decade’s focus on investing in companies that can quickly collect and monetize data.
RELATED: Cryptonumerics raises $3.3 million CAD seed funding for data analytics, privacy software
Accenture’s report found that on a global spectrum, a total of 81 percent of consumers are still willing to share income, location, and lifestyle habit data for rapid loan approval. And more than three quarters are willing to do so in order to receive personalized offers based on their location.
Global consumers, for the most part, are in favour of receiving premiums in exchange for lifestyle information. Over half of global consumers, 64 percent, showed interest in adjusted car insurance premiums based on safe driving. About half of consumers would like life insurance premiums tied to a healthy lifestyle. Four in five consumers would provide income, location, and lifestyle data to their insurer if they believed it would reduce injury or loss.
However, consumers’ willingness to share data varied around the world. In China, 67 percent of consumers were willing to share data in exchange for more personalized services, compared to 50 percent in the US.
In Europe, consumers were more skeptical. The General Data Protection Regulation, the primary law regulating how companies protect consumer data, was implemented in May last year. Only 40 percent of consumers in the UK and Germany found themselves willing to share data in return for personalized services.
The full report can be read here.

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Global tech talent drawn to Toronto feels warm welcome despite Visa delays

At the beginning of February, global accelerator program Techstars commenced its second cohort in Toronto.
The cohort is comprised of a diverse range of companies, from crypto investors to singing apps, and POS systems for customers on-the-go. Techstars Toronto has attracted talent from across Canada – as far as the Yukon, in fact – but also international startups looking to scale in the Great White North. These companies have been drawn to Toronto’s thriving tech ecosystem, despite the challenges some still face in bringing their business to the city.
“We’ve seen different companies move their operations to Canada, or use Toronto as their epicentre as they expand into North America.”
Launched in Canada in 2018, Techstar’s Toronto accelerator is run in partnership with Real Ventures. The program runs for 13 weeks out of WeWork in downtown Toronto, and unlike Techstars’ proptech and AI accelerators in Toronto and Montreal, respectively, this program doesn’t focus on one specific industry. The cohort currently houses 61 people from six companies, spanning Toronto-Kitchener-Waterloo, one company from Montreal, one from the Yukon, as well as the two international startups.
“We look to invest in companies that are really disrupting the industries they’re operating in,” said Tariq Haddadin, program manager at Techstars Toronto. “Toronto is an incredible hub, and because of different players in the ecosystem recognizing Toronto as a city, we’ve seen different companies move their operations to Canada, or use Toronto as their epicentre as they expand into North America.”
Each year, Techstars chooses more than 300 companies to join its three-month mentorship-driven accelerators that operate around the world. Techstars invests $120,000 in each company for six percent common share equity, providing hands-on mentorship, and unlimited access to the Techstars global network for life. Haddadin noted that TechStars and its curated network of program associates, investors, and mentors is a great “soft landing” for startups looking to go to market.

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“I can’t think of many other programs that even come close to Techstars’ global reach,” said Sunil Sharma, managing director of Techstars Toronto. “We have a lifetime relationship with each company, with global access to investors, partners, funders, and media.”
Sharma said Toronto has become a magnet for attracting the world’s best entrepreneur, as its profile as a global tech centre has never been higher. The managing director noted that Techstars Toronto’s inaugural cohort raised over $10 million of follow-on capital collectively upon graduation, and added that this year’s program hopes to build on the success of last year’s class.
“In ten days in Toronto, we did more than we did in a month in Lithuania.”
– Edmundas Balčikonis
This year’s cohort features two international startups with global aspirations that are making use of Techstars and Toronto’s network to lay the foundation for developing on a global scale: Kora, an Africa-focused payments solution founded in Lagos, Nigeria, and Eddy Travels, an AI travel booker founded in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Kora’s cross-border payments solution uses several technologies, including blockchain settlement, to reduce the cost of remittance while increasing the speed of payments into and within Africa. The company aims to create a unified connection between global financial systems and Africa, a continent Bryan Uyanwune, the CIO at Kora, believes is at the new frontier of financial opportunity. Founded in Nigeria’s capital city, the company has ambitions to one day become a fully-fledged digital bank.
“We want to build a global billion-dollar business,” said Uyanwune. “We knew we would definitely need expertise and a foundation and the right guidance, and Techstars has the track rate of being able to build something like that.”
Lithuania-based Eddy Travels is a virtual travel assistant created to help users find travel deals and tips through chat applications. The company’s software looks to help travellers search for flights, hotels, restaurants, and travel insurance quickly. Artificial intelligence is integrated into the application so users can send voice commands to the application for faster responses. The software is currently available on Facebook Messenger, Slack, Viber, and Telegram, and leverages services like SkyScanner.
“We’re really happy about the choice in coming to Toronto,” Edmundas Balčikonis, Eddy Travels’ co-founder and CEO, told BetaKit. “You’re right next door to huge markets like the United States, Toronto’s mentors are awesome, and in ten days in Toronto, we did more than we did in a month in Lithuania.”

Balčikonis said the most valuable thing about Techstars is its mentorship opportunities in the B2C and travel tech space, as well as the wealth of travel tech events in Toronto. He said the concentration of travel tech companies like Snap Travel and Hopper, played a big role in driving the team to Canada.
“The application process could be faster. It’s going to take me half a year to get [the visa].”
Balčikonis is one of the many global entrepreneurs looking to get a visa through Canada’s Startup Visa Program, which looks to expedite permanent residency for immigrants willing to move their business to Canada. Balčikonis said he plans on moving to Canada for good once he gets his visa, and although the process was clear and straightforward, it has also been slow.
“The application process could be faster,” Balčikonis said. “It’s going to take me half a year to get [the visa]. Everything is pretty straightforward, but it could be faster.”
Uyanwune said despite having to acclimatize to Toronto’s weather, he feels Toronto has given him a warm welcome, particularly as the only member of his Kora team who has, so far, been able to enter Canada.
“I’ve been here by myself. My team wasn’t able to make it due to some visa issues at the Canadian embassy,” Uyanwune said. “We’re currently trying to get that rectified, but even just being here by myself, everyone treats you like family.”
Uyanwune said he’s hopeful that five more members of his team will be able to come to Toronto and participate in Techstars’ program. He noted he is still very happy to be in Canada, but for now, interaction with the remainder of his team is limited to remote communication, with the added strain of a six-hour time difference.
“We’re still waiting for just the entry visas for Kora to be able to come to Canada and take part in Techstars,” said Sharma. “Luckily Bryan is an American citizen, so his entry to Canada was straightforward. But Nigerians need a visa, and we’re not necessarily trying to immigrate people yet.”
Sharma said there is global awareness of Toronto’s tech industry, including its availability of talent, and the decision to bring Collision Conference to Toronto is a recognition that Toronto is, by nature, international and global. He added that he wants these global companies to come and participate in Techstars, and take advantage of what the region has to offer.
“There’s this general awareness that Canada has very proactive and sensible immigration, but our visa advantages aren’t as straightforward as they appear to be. I think we as a country should be paying attention to the ways that we attract entrepreneurs to Canada,” he told BetaKit.
Images courtesy Kora & Eddy Travels.

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F|T: The FinTech Times – Wealthsimple takes stock

Welcome to the FinTech Times, a weekly newsletter covering the biggest FinTech news from around the globe. If you want to read F|T before anyone else, make sure to subscribe using the form at the bottom of this page.

Wealthsimple launches previously announced stock-trading mobile app

“We saw an opportunity to take the simple, human approach we’re known for and apply it to the trading experience,” says Mike Katchen, CEO and co-founder of Wealthsimple.

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How Airports Like LAX Are Using Automated Services For Frictionless Experiences

Using a mix of app-enabled, data-driven and seamless technology, airport retailers are creating frictionless experiences for busy pre-boarding customers

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How Brands Like GM Turn The Car Into A Mobile Commerce Hub

From Volkswagon to Honda, leading automotive retailers are integrating cars with ecommerce and digital entertainment capabilities to make the driving experience the highlight of the journey

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#Budget2019 makes Global Talent Stream permanent, provides no national data strategy

The Canadian government has tabled its #Budget2019.
This government’s previous budgets have featured significant investments in Canada’s innovation economy. In 2017, the federal government committed $950 million towards Superclusters, building a national AI strategy, and launching the Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative (VCCI), all of which only recently began deploying capital. That budget also committed to “double the number of high-growth companies in Canada…from 14,000 to 28,000 by 2025.”
Budget 2018 saw additional support for further equality between genders, a noted focus in both the VCCI and Superclusters announcements. Last year’s budget committed to tabling pay equity legislation, Bill C-86, which passed in December, and committed more than $365 million towards women entrepreneurs across a variety of programs, including support for regional development agencies, the Business Women in International Trade Program, and Export Development Canada, as well as upped government commitment to the BDC’s Women in Technology Fund.
Last year’s budget also announced $572.5 million over five years towards a national big data strategy as well as $85.3 million over five years towards an IP strategy that it has since pushed forward.
This is the fourth budget of this Liberal government, and the last budget to be introduced before the federal election is set to take place in October. This budget features fewer significant capital commitments towards Canadian tech and innovation compared to prior budgets, and could be taken as an expansion of previously announced initiatives. Significantly, the budget features no mention of a national data strategy, despite the federal government launching consultations in June of last year.
Executive summary

Global Talent Stream made permanent
$35.2 million over five years, beginning 2019-20, with $7.4 million per year ongoing for Global Talent Stream
$38 million over five years, starting in 2019-20 to Futurpreneur Canada (Futurpreneur Canada will match investments) to support approximately 1,000 entrepreneurs per year)
$100 million over four years, starting in 2019–20, to the Strategic Innovation Fund, leveraging private sector co-investments, in order to support cleantech and the activities of the Clean Resource Innovation Network
$219.1 million over five years, starting in 2019–20, (with $0.5 million in remaining amortization), and $3.1 million per year on an ongoing basis for regulatory department Roadmaps, including Health Canada to establish a regulatory sandbox for innovative medical products
$328.5 million to support Science, Research and Technology Organizations, including $18 million over three years 2019–20 for Stem Cell Network, $100.5 million over five years, starting in 2020–21 Genome Canada, and $10 million over two years starting in 2020–21 for Let’s Talk Science STEM program
Establish and operate the Strategic Science Fund starting in 2022–23.
$1.7 billion to support universal high-speed internet in rural, remote and northern communities, including a new national high-speed internet program – the Universal Broadband Fund
$1.7 billion over five years, and $586.5 million per year ongoing, to establish a new Canada Training Benefit
$1 billion Canada Infrastructure Bank investment, leveraging at least $2 billion in additional private sector investment to increase broadband access for Canadians
$200,000 annual cap on employee stock option grants to move toward aligning Canada’s employee stock option tax treatment with the US

Developing…

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More than 100 international trade missions to take place in Toronto during Collision

The arrival of Collision Conference, which lands in Toronto for the first time this May, has encouraged several organizations to schedule more than 100 inbound trade missions for global businesses looking to explore Canada’s innovation ecosystem.
“We see this is a great opportunity to build export opportunities for local companies help[ing] them continue their global growth.”
The missions are being arranged by Global Affairs Canada, the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto. The organizers will set aside several days for B2B gatherings concentrated on introducing Toronto and Canadian companies to international businesses interested in connecting with Canadian technologies and services. The organizers are hoping to give Canadian business a chance to leverage Collision to forge new connections and partnerships.
“This is really an opportunity for Toronto and Canadian companies to engage with international buyers at scale,” shared Chris Rickett, manager of special projects with the City of Toronto. “We see this is a great opportunity to build export opportunities for local companies help[ing] them continue their global growth.”
These free-to-attend meetings will complement the international trade missions that are being scheduled as a part of Collision Conference. This year, over 2,500 international companies are among the estimated 25,000 Collision attendees.
Related: How Justin Trudeau and a former diplomat convinced Paddy Cosgrave to bring Collision to Canada
Taking place from May 20 to 23 at the Enercare Centre in Toronto, Collision is bringing together over 450 speakers, 500 investors, and 1,000 startups from over 120 countries. Past speakers at the conference have included Al Gore, Anjali Sud, Wyclef Jean, Sophia Bush, Damon Wayans Jr., and Brad Smith.
Early last year, BetaKit was first to report that Collision would be coming to Canada for 2019. Last May, Paddy Cosgrave, CEO of Web Summit, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau officially announced that Collision will be hosted in Toronto for a three year stint.
Collision — which will address topics including AI, automated and connected vehicles, data, software development, and investment — is expected to bring over 90,000 attendees to Toronto over three years, with an economic impact of $147 million.
Attendance at Collision is not required for participating in the B2B meetings, but there will be limited space available. The earlier Canadian companies register, the better the opportunity will be for those companies to register for meetings that will fit their needs.
The emphasis of the B2B meetings will be business across technology, services, and manufacturing sectors. Any interested Canadian companies that operate in these verticals should complete this questionnaire.
Interested individuals can learn more about Collision here.
Image courtesy City of Toronto.

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