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Waterloo startup collective announces ‘Start-Ups for School’ initiative

A collective of startups in Waterloo has announced Start-Ups for School, a volunteer outreach initiative for small local startups to help children access enriching educational experiences.
“We want to make sure the Waterloo Region tech community builds a reputation of giving back to the local community.”
 
“Many tech communities in the US are facing backlash from their local communities,” stated Tomas van Stee, founder of participating startup EnPowered. “We want to make sure that the Waterloo Region tech community builds a reputation of giving back to the local community. We may be small but we can still support the community that has helped us grow.”
Start-Ups for School currently has two participating companies including EnPowered, which was founded in 2015 and uses AI to predict spikes in electricity prices. Kiiah, is the second participating startup, also founded in 2015, running an eGift registry created to encourage meaningful gifting. The companies officially announced their initiative on March 15.
RELATED: How tech companies can give back
Any startup, or someone employed by a startup, can join the initiative. The group plans to develop projects looking to benefit the region’s children, schools, or other community organizations. The group stated that potential projects could include fundraising, mentorships, educational workshops, tutoring, and more.
The collective noted that it hopes to grow in size, both in terms of participating companies and impact upon the local community. The collective is currently gearing up for its first fundraiser with The Family and Children’s Services Foundation. Its goal is to raise $5000 CAD for the Resilience Project, which endeavors to help children build confidence, self-esteem, and self-efficacy.
“Some are fortunate to receive doses of adversity spread over time. For some youth and families’ adversity comes all at once,” said Hayden Dent, founder of Kiiah. “Our capacity to be resilient and bear these dark periods can make a difference between breakthrough or breakdown. Resilience is a life skill worth of social cultivation, especially in our youth.”

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Medical organizations look to assess virtual healthcare technology

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA), the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) are launching a task force to examine virtual care technology and how it can improve access and quality of care for patients across the country.
“It is time for our policies and regulations to evolve to today’s available technology.”
The task force is looking to identify any regulatory changes that will be required for physicians to deliver virtual care to patients across provincial and territorial boundaries. It will also look at administrative challenges, and “explore how health information can be effectively captured and available to both physicians and patients.”
The task force is expected to complete its work by the end of 2019, with recommendations put forth in early 2020. It will be comprised of representatives from regulatory bodies, medical and healthcare organizations, the eHealth industry, among other experts.
“It is time for our policies and regulations to evolve to today’s available technology,” said Gigi Osler, president of the CMA. “Removing barriers can lead to improved access to care for all Canadians.”
This task force comes as Canada’s health tech ecosystem is seeing new additions in the virtual care space. Earlier this month, Telus Health and Babylon announced the launch of a virtual healthcare solution, allowing Canadians access to healthcare support and information through a phone app. MedStack, a Toronto-based compliance solution for healthcare apps used by companies like Maple and CareTeam, also recently raised a $2.4 million oversubscribed seed round.
Related: OrbCare secures $2 million seed funding for healthtech software
A 2018 Ipsos poll found that seven in 10 Canadians say they would take advantage of virtual physician visits if they were available, and nine out of 10 physicians support either a national licensing regime for virtual healthcare.
“The CFPC is leading family medicine into adopting new ways of helping family doctors care for their patients in all communities across the country,” adds Dr. Paul Sawchuk, the CFPC’s president. “This physician-led taskforce will support our members in continuing to provide quality, compassionate care through virtual interactions.”
Image courtesy Unsplash.

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Bridgit raises CDN$7.75 million in new investment

Bridgit, the Waterloo Region company whose software helps streamline large construction projects, has raised CDN$7.75-million in new investment as its growth continues.
The Series A funding round was led by the BDC Women in Technology Venture Fund, with involvement from the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund, Innovation Grade Ventures, Salesforce Ventures, Sands Capital Ventures, StandUp Ventures and Vanedge Capital Partners. The company is also completing a debt financing with CIBC Innovation Banking.
“We’re extremely excited to have support from so many prominent investors,” Bridgit CEO and co-founder Mallorie Brodie said, adding that “2019 is going to be a big year for Bridgit, as we work towards adding to our software suite, and updating the Bridgit brand our customers know and love.”
Bridgit is the second Waterloo Region construction tech company to announce Series A funding in recent weeks. Dozr, a heavy-equipment rental platform, raised CDN$14-million last month.
Both Bridgit and Dozr moved to Waterloo Region from other cities to build their companies, and both took part in Communitech Rev, an accelerator program designed to help companies with products in-market to boost sales revenue.
Brodie and Lauren Lake, who grew up in families with construction-industry backgrounds, co-founded Bridgit in 2013 after both had attended the University

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Construction software company Bridgit raises $6.2 million CAD Series A

Kitchener-based Bridgit, which offers a project management platform for construction businesses, has raised $6.2 million CAD in a Series A round led by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) Capital Women in Technology Venture Fund.
“We’re excited to partner with Bridgit as they continue to disrupt the construction market.”
 
Other investors include Salesforce Ventures, Sands Capital Ventures, and Vanedge Capital Partners. A debt-financing deal with CIBC Innovation Banking is also in the works, which would bring Bridgit’s total new capital to $7.75-million.
“Bridgit’s inherent understanding of its customers’ needs is impressive and foundational in empowering customers to embrace technology,” said Michelle Scarborough, managing director of BDC Capital’s Women in Technology Fund. “We’re excited to partner with Bridgit as they continue to disrupt the construction market and bring innovation to an industry on the brink of enormous change.”
RELATED: Bridgit’s co-founders on mentorship & getting comfortable with “trying and failing” (#BetaKit1on1)
Bridgit’s mobile-first software solutions are used by general contractors, engineering firms, and real-estate developers throughout North America. Some of its solutions include Bridgit Quality, a kick-off to close-out inspection management solution, and Bridgit Insights, a dashboard of a project’s task and inspection metrics. Bridgit told The Globe and Mail that its software is used in up to 10,000 projects at a given time.
The company was co-founded Mallorie Brodie and Lauren Lake, after the two met in Next 36 young-entrepreneur program in Toronto in early 2013. Its team is 50 percent female, and boasts full-pay equity for its employees.
The company was also a part of the University of Toronto’s Creative Destruction Lab, and in 2016, raised a $2.2 million CAD seed round led by Hyde Park Venture Partners with participation from Vanedge Capital.
“We’re extremely excited to have support from so many prominent investors,” said Brodie, co-founder and CEO of Bridgit. “2019 is going to be a big year for Bridgit, as we work towards adding to our software suite, and updating the Bridgit brand our customers know and love.”
Image courtesy Bridgit.

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Canadian securities regulators propose regulatory framework for crypto platforms

The Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC) are seeking input from the FinTech community on how Canada should construct regulation for crypto-asset trading platforms in Canada.
The two organizations released a consultation paper on Thursday, with a proposed framework for crypto-asset trading platforms and are now looking for feedback on building that framework.
“We must provide clarity to the market about how regulatory requirements might best be tailored.”
 
Although crypto trading platforms can already be subject to securities or derivatives regulations, depending on their structure, others may include features that are not covered by existing regulations, and create risks for investors. Where securities legislation applies to platforms, the CSA and IIROC are considering a tailored regulatory framework to address the potential new features and risks of cryptos.
“This consultation outlines a proposed regulatory framework that provides clarity for platforms, greater market integrity and protection for investors,” said Louis Morisset, CSA chair and president, as well as CEO of the Autorité des marchés financiers. “Platforms have told us that a tailored regulatory framework is welcome as they seek to build consumer confidence and expand their businesses across Canada and globally.”
The recent QuadrigaCX fiasco highlighted the near-absence of regulations covering the cryptocurrency industry in Canada. The Vancouver-based platform, which had once been one of Canada’s largest crypto exchanges, collapsed when the CEO Gerald Cotton died and the company lost access to $250 million in cash and cryptocurrency.
Last month, crypto and blockchain lawyer Michael Stephens spoke to BetaKit about what regulations could have prevented Quadriga. He noted that the lack of federal regulations made it easier for a company like Quadriga, which was registered in BC, to get away with certain activities, especially since it wasn’t considered a securities marketplace.
RELATED: The QuadrigaCX debacle continues, with new revelations
Canada is the only developed federal democracy that does not have any securities regulatory authority at the federal government level. Securities regulators in Canada operate on a province-by-province basis, and many regulators also do not consider Ether, Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ripple, or Litecoin as securities.
In the past, the Toronto-based Blockchain Research Institute has recommended creating a central regulatory body at the federal level like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, in order to streamline a national, unified policy on crypto exchanges in Canada. Last year, the federal government was set to implement regulations specifically for cryptocurrency and blockchain companies, but postponed the release to late 2019.
The CSA and IIROC consultation paper is now seeking input from the FinTech community on how to tackle custody and verification of assets, price determination, market surveillance, systems and business continuity planning, conflicts of interest, crypto-asset insurance, and clearing and settlement.
Canadian business law firm Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt released a written statement providing comment on the CSA and IIROC proposals for a regulatory framework. The statement detailed some of the benefits of creating a regulatory framework. It claimed the framework could open the door for platforms to operate within Canada in a compliant manner and could also make it easier for platforms to obtain and maintain commercial relationships with banks and other financial institution.
The statement also discussed some challenges platforms will face if a regulatory framework were to be created, including acquiring insurance, verifying assets, and meeting proficiency requirements.
“The framework contemplates various operational requirements intended to protect participants from the counterparty and other risks associated with platforms, most recently exemplified by the collapse of QuadrigaCX, such as requirements for market integrity, market surveillance, fair pricing, custody, clearing and settlement, disclosure of conflicts of interest, and systems and business continuity planning,” the statement read.
Osler said that it is imperative for the scope of the framework to be restricted to activities that are already subject to oversight by Canadian securities regulators, specifically dealing in, advising in or providing a marketplace for crypto assets that are characterized as securities or derivatives.
Pauline Brunel, a senior associate at Impression Ventures, told BetaKit that although debate around crypto regulation has existed for some time in Canada, Quadriga’s case underscored the need for a regulatory framework.
Pauline Brunel – Senior Associate, Impression Ventures
“Without regulation, Quadriga-esque cases were bound to happen,” Brunel said. “It appears fraud cases are now coming to light in multiple jurisdictions and, unfortunately, have caused at least a billion dollars in lost and stolen crypto assets in 2018 alone.”
Brunel said a framework would allow Canada to play a lead role in innovation within crypto asset classes while providing supervision and a level playing field for participants. She added that regulations enable consumers and investors to quickly react to the ever-changing market, advocate for the space to improve its operating standards, and foster education and trust in the industry.
“We believe this open approach is healthy and constructive,” Brunel said. “In the future, we hope that regulators will play a critical role in monitoring and protecting investors from the significant conflicts of interests that arise within the crypto ecosystem.”
“Regulators will play a critical role in monitoring and protecting investors from the significant conflicts of interests…within the crypto ecosystem.”
“The emergence of digital and crypto assets continues to be a growing area of interest for regulators, investors, and marketplaces. And together, securities regulators are taking steps to deepen our understanding of this area,” said Andrew J. Kriegler, president and CEO of the IIROC. “We must adapt to innovation, and provide clarity to the market about how regulatory requirements might best be tailored and applied to these unique business models, while maintaining investor protection.”
In light of the QuadrigaCX incident, another organization, the Crypto Action Task Force (CATF), is attempting to build a ‘code of conduct’ for businesses operating in the blockchain industry. The CATF plans to build a framework outlining structure, standardization, and common practices crypto exchanges should be following. The organization is looking to gather input from businesses, leaders, and experts in the cryptocurrency space in Canada, as well as around the world.
The CSA and IIROC noted they are also engaged with international regulators to get feedback and input about their approach to crypto-asset trading platforms.
Image courtesy Pixabay.

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Fonds de solidarité FTQ makes $1 billion annual investment commitment

Montreal-based VC Fonds de solidarité FTQ has announced it will invest $1 billion CAD a year, over three years, to support Québec energy and technology.
This new commitment represents a 30 percent increase over the fund’s previous yearly commitment, which was an average of $771 million over the last five years.
“We have to take action now if we want to leave the next generations a prosperous and inclusive society.”
The Fonds said it plans to initially invest in emerging companies that are driving Québec’s technological growth, that can help other businesses reduce their carbon footprint and adopt new technologies, such as Worximity, Mnubo and Kaloom. Morin said these companies are developing energy efficiency, cleaner industrial processes, and more efficient transportation.
“We have to take action now if we want to leave the next generations a prosperous and inclusive society and hopefully a greener planet,” said Fonds president and CEO, Gaétan Morin. “As business people, we can have an impact on how things turn out. We can make sure that people are not left behind in the transformations that are coming. This is what the Fonds will be doing over the next few years. The Fonds will also continue the support the growth of Québec businesses.”
The Fonds de solidarité FTQ is a capital development fund that invests in local businesses to further the economic development of all the regions of Québec. With $14.8 billion CAD in net assets as of November 2018, the Fonds stated that it has helped create 194,000 jobs, and has partnered with more than 2,800 companies.
The fund has made several moves in the biomedical and cleantech space in the last ten years. In 2013, it announced a $30 million commitment to US-based Sanderling Ventures, an investment firm with a 35-year track record of building new biomedical companies. It was also a major investor in the Ecofuel Fund, announced earlier this year, which has so far amassed $40.6 million in investor commitments.
“Since the Fonds de solidarité FTQ was created 35 years ago, the world has become a different place,” said Morin. “Today, the world is changing at lightning speed. We must all rethink our business models and find ways to innovate. We all have to orchestrate transformations that will pave the way not only to better productivity but also to lasting prosperity and a greener planet.”
Image courtesy Unsplash.

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R|T: The Retail Times – Fighting digital commerce fraud

The Retail Times is a weekly newsletter covering retail tech news from Canada and around the globe.
Subscribe to R|T using the form at the bottom of this page to ensure you don’t miss out on the most important retail tech news every week!

Lightspeed shares surge after TSX IPO

The company’s shares jumped by 18 percent on their first day of trading.

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Canadian startup news of the week (03/17/19)

Welcome to BetaKit’s startup stories of the week! Here, you will find the week’s most important news, features, and editorials published on BetaKit. If you prefer this update hit your inbox every week, make sure to subscribe to the BetaKit Newsletter using the form at the bottom of this page.
Top Stories of the Week

CVCA report: VC firms invest $1.3 billion in Q4 2018
A total of $1.3 billion was invested in more than 165 deals in the quarter, bringing the year-end VC investment total to $3.7 billion.

Wattpad partners with India’s largest media company to expand presence in the region
With over 70 million users, Wattpad has offices in Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong.

Crypto Action Task Force calls for universal framework after QuadrigaCX
The Quadriga incident has left a “big, unfortunate stain” on the industry.

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Canadian Growth Hackers: Exact Media’s Elena Armstrong on how retailers break through the noise

In this series, brought to you by Toronto-based native advertising tech company StackAdapt, Vitaly Pecherskiy meets with the top minds in the marketing and advertising industry to uncover how Canadian companies use forward-thinking strategies and cutting-edge software to innovate and break through the noise.
In this installment of Canadian Growth Hackers, Vitaly interviews Elena Armstrong, co-founder and COO of Exact Media, a Toronto-based startup that helps brands acquire customers and distribute samples at a fraction of the cost of other channels. The pair talk about being open to change, trends in eCommerce, and the importance of multichannel marketing strategies.

Give us a brief history of Exact Media. Your business has evolved a lot since its inception.
We started Exact Media in mid-2013, with the mission of connecting brands with eCommerce retailers. We wanted to help brands with their customer acquisition and trial efforts via sampling and paper insert programs in North America.
“So many companies think about their own goals when creating their communication and content strategy. Your customers don’t care about your goals – they care about their own.”
– Elena Armstrong
In the first few years, we were very hands-on and operated much like a traditional agency: selling to brands on one side and finding the right partners to execute their programs on the other. We were in a unique position of merging a traditionally offline world (physical samples, paper inserts, gift cards) with eCommerce; our company represented a novel way for brands to reach qualified shoppers online.
In May 2017, a year after raising a Series A, we launched the Connections platform that automated our old business. Our platform connected advertisers to eCommerce retailers to partner on parcel insert programs.
Within one year of launching, advertisers had distributed over 70 million inserts via Connections – more than triple what we had done in three years under the original business model.
Making changes to an existing business is complex and requires unwavering vision. What do you recommend to executives who know they need to change their strategy but haven’t already?
The status quo often seems like the path of least resistance. I won’t pretend that making profound changes comes easy to my co-founders and me – whether it’s changing the business strategy, having tough conversations, or letting someone go. However, these decisions are ultimately unavoidable, so you can deal with a tough situation on your own terms and timeline or be forced to deal with it suddenly, when you have no other choice.
So my advice is to step back from the situation and objectively ask yourself if the decision is for the best, regardless of the short-term pain. If the answer is yes, then I recommend just toughing it out.
What trends are pushing your business forward, and what do you expect to gain more traction in the coming years?
Our business is directly correlated with the growth of eCommerce and consumer brands. The consistent growth of online shopping continues to introduce more possibilities for our business, whether it’s an increase in our existing market or opportunities in developing markets where eCommerce is becoming more prevalent.
On the side of consumer products, the emergence and rapid growth in direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands is a huge trend we’re noticing. Just a few years ago, most of our customers were predominantly big CPG names; today, we have customers from both top 10 CPG companies and high growth DTC brands, such as Naked Wines, Wealthsimple, Endy, and HelloFresh.
With more and more purchases happening online, what is a key strategy for physical retailers to nail in order to remain relevant?
We’re at a stage where most retailers have taken their stores online and have mobile apps for shopping. Providing a seamless online/mobile shopping experience is probably at the top of my list. Coming in close second is successful marketing.
Sephora, in my opinion, has successfully transitioned from a brick-and-mortar model to the mobile/online world by making the user experience as appealing as in-store – with seamless desktop/mobile shopping, their in-app Virtual Artist, and email newsletters that are targeted specifically to a shopper’s needs.
People have become pretty numb to typical sales pitches. What advice would you give to advertisers who are building their communication and content strategies?
This is going to sound cliché, but so many companies think about their own goals when creating their communication and content strategy. It’s about doing A and B to achieve a certain goal, but ultimately your customers don’t care about your goals – they care about their own.
My co-founder Daniel Rodic writes a lot of articles, white papers and speaks in podcasts and other venues. Our number one strategy is to create content that benefits the audience without sounding too “salesy”. If you can add value and become a trusted resource, you start to build a relationship with your customers and become their go-to person when they have a problem that you can help solve.
In our previous conversation, you mentioned that no channel is a silver bullet and every new addition should always be treated as part of the ever-evolving marketing mix. Why is it important for advertisers to test new channels?
Consumer behaviour and successful marketing strategies are always evolving and what worked yesterday isn’t necessarily going to work tomorrow, which is why we believe that testing new channels is required for a successful marketing mix.
A couple of years ago, Instagram was probably the best online customer acquisition channel for a lot of DTC businesses, but that’s no longer the case for a lot of my friends that run DTC businesses online. Many of them learned it the hard way – by seeing a big dip in their sales; only then did they diversify where they put their marketing dollars and started testing different channels.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe in doubling down on a channel that works well. But I think it’s equally important to simultaneously try new channels, so you’re not left high and dry if your existing strategies stop working; you also never know when you’ll discover a new approach that outperforms what you’re already using!
Can you share some successful multichannel strategies that you have seen retailers employ to connect with potential customers?
We’re seeing many of our customers succeed with a very diversified marketing mix, including TV, billboard, parcel insert programs and social. An example that pops in my mind right away is Endy. They’ve done such a great job marketing their mattress, whether you’re driving on the highway, taking the TTC, shopping online or browsing through social channels, you’re almost guaranteed to see an Endy ad at some point. When I think about mattresses, not only are they top of mind, they also provide great incentives within their ads to try out the product.
Bonus questions! What is one book every business person should read?
The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday.
What is one or two skills every leader must develop?
Learning from your own (or other people’s) mistakes and making tough decisions.

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Op-Ed: Meeting Changing Hotel Guest Expectations Means Going Back To The Basics

Alex Shashou, travel industry leader and founder of hospitality operations platform ALICE, breaks down the key steps to delivering the experiences today’s hotel guests want most

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