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S|W: The SaaS Weekly – The market is open

The SaaS Weekly is a weekly newsletter covering major SaaS news from Canada and around the globe.
Subscribe to S|W using the form at the bottom of this page to ensure you don’t miss out on the most important SaaS news every week!

Lightspeed prices IPO at $16 per share, raises $240 million CAD

The Montreal-based company had initially targeted a $200 million CAD IPO.

Airbnb acquires last-minute hotel booking app HotelTonight
Airbnb, which is worth about $31 billion, previously said it is on a mission to build a platform that helps people with all aspects of travel, including where to stay, what to do and how to get there. The acquisition will help Airbnb diversify its business as it gears up to go public.

Miovision partnerships expand its smart city vision to Maritimes and US

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How Brands Like BMW Derive Valuable Consumer Data Using Reciprocal Exchange

These four retailers are trading rewards and incentives with shoppers in exchange for shared information and invaluable intelligence

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Op-Ed: Why Are Brick-And-Mortar Stores Back In Fashion?

PSFK founder Piers Fawkes describes eight pillars for modern retailers to guide their in-store experience design in an evolving and digital-first retail landscape

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Push tech exports worldwide, federal minister says

Canada must continue to streamline access to funding programs, invest in women entrepreneurs and STEM-related education programs and consider bold, new initiatives to move the needle on international trade and diversify its trading partners, a lunchtime audience heard during a panel discussion at Communitech Thursday.
“Canada’s known as a trading country. We’re not yet known as a country of traders. We’re going to change that,” said Mary Ng, Canada’s Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion, one of four panelists on stage during the “fireside chat”-style event hosted by Communitech CEO and President Iain Klugman.
Ng, paying her first visit to Waterloo Region since taking over the small business and export portfolio from Waterloo MP and Government House Leader Bardish Chagger last July, said the government is determined to help entrepreneurs sell their products outside of Canada and reduce the country’s reliance on the U.S. as a trading partner.
“For a lot of small businesses, figuring out how to get into a market other than the U.S. is overwhelming,” said Heather Galt, Vice-President, Marketing, at Waterloo-based P&P Optica and one of three panelists on stage with Ng.
“It’s really hard. It’s really complex. Companies end up narrowing their focus,” she said, and settling on

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NXM Labs invests in Ryerson University’s cybersecurity research lab

Ryerson University’s Cybersecurity Research Lab (CRL) has secured funding from NXM Labs, a security and data integrity software developer. The agreement will be managed by the Center for Autonomous Security and Data Integrity, NXM’s corporate research lab.
“This is a win-win for NXM and Ryerson as we focus our expertise on one of the hottest technology sectors.”
Through the funding, NXM and Ryerson will jointly explore advanced crypto and quantum solutions for 5G IoT device networks. Atefeh Mashatan, a cybersecurity researcher who leads the CRL, will work to use NXM’s investment with those of other funders to accelerate research efforts.
“We are thrilled to be working with NXM to address the impact of quantum computing and AI on security,” said Mashatan. “The company already has a strong intellectual property foundation in autonomous security and we aim to enhance it quickly with our academic research resources on crypto agility, quantum computing and quantum-resistant technologies. This is a win-win for NXM and Ryerson as we focus our expertise on one of the hottest technology sectors.”
RELATED: Cybersecurity is the Achilles’ heel of Canadian tech businesses
The CRL is an academic research facility at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University. The lab pilots information security research, trains future cybersecurity experts, and is directing a dialogue with the information and communications technology industry.
The lab’s objective is to help organizations find innovative and cost-effective cyber risk mitigation strategies and solutions. Some of its projects include developing a blockchain adoption framework for businesses, exploring barriers and drivers to blockchain adoption, and developing ways to build post-quantum blockchain.
NXM Labs is a San Francisco-based developer that works across sectors, including in communications, automotive, and enterprise software, to develop advanced commercial applications in cryptography, distributed ledger, machine learning, 5G, and quantum proofing.
Mashatan is also a professor of Information Technology Management at Ryerson, with a research focus on information systems security, cryptography, and combinatorics. She also led the evaluation of security systems and provided expertise on threat and risk management for CIBC.
“In our opinion, Dr. Mashatan is one of the finest cybersecurity researchers around, given her extensive academic credentials as well as industry experience,” said Jay Fallah, CTO and co-founder of NXM Labs. “She’s ideally suited to do this type of research and complements our work with distributed ledgers. We’re looking forward to some early successes with Dr. Mashatan and her research team to enhance our IP portfolio.”
Image courtesy Pixabay.

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Culture of equality key driver in workplace innovation, report finds

In Canada, employees’ willingness and ability to innovate is nearly six times higher in companies with a robust culture of equality, according to a new report from Accenture.
“The impact of having a diverse workforce and culture of equality is a powerful multiplier of innovation and growth within a company.”
As part of its “Getting to Equal 2019” research, Accenture conducted a survey of more than 18,000 professionals in 27 countries, including over 700 in Canada. The report included 150 C-suite executives from eight countries. It found that a sweeping majority of executives consider continuous innovation to be essential, and that Canadian employees in strong cultures of equality are seven times more likely to say they have no barriers to innovate.
“In order to truly thrive, organizations need to be continuously innovating to offset disruptions within their respective industries,” said Claudia Thompson, Accenture’s managing director for health and public service and its lead for inclusion and diversity in Canada. “The impact of having a diverse workforce and culture of equality is a powerful multiplier of innovation and growth within a company.”
RELATED: Report: 62 percent of Canadian execs see outdated technology as barrier to innovation
According to the research, 95 percent of global executives see innovation as imperative to competitiveness and business sustainability. The survey found that a culture of equality is a strong driver of the innovation mindset – the ability and willingness to innovate. Equality beat out all other factors that distinguish businesses, such as sector, location, or employee demographics.
The report concluded that an empowering environment is the most important of the three culture of equality categories in boosting the innovation mindset, which consists of six factors: purpose, autonomy, resources, inspiration, collaboration, and experimentation. The more empowering the workplace environment, the better the innovation mindset score, the survey found.
GDP could increase by up to $8 trillion USD over the next decade if the innovation mindset in all countries was raised.
 
While 76 percent of executives surveyed indicated that believe they empower employees to innovate, only 37 percent of employees agreed. The report found that executives seem to overemphasize financial rewards, and undervalue purpose, as incentives for employees to innovate. Accenture said in a statement, the most effective factors supporting the innovation mindset include offering appropriate skills training, flexible work schedules, and respect for work-life balance.
On a global level, the research found that the innovation mindset of employees is nearly eight times higher when diversity is combined with a culture of equality, compared to companies where these factors are less common. Accenture determined that global gross domestic product could increase by up to $8 trillion USD over the next decade if the innovation mindset in all countries was raised by 10 percent.
RELATED: 80 women and non-binary people in Canadian tech worth following
“Accelerating equality in the workplace has never been more critical for driving innovation,” said Ellyn Shook, Accenture’s chief leadership and human resources officer. “If people feel a sense of belonging and are valued by their employers for their unique contributions, perspectives, and circumstances, they are more likely to advance and feel empowered to innovate.”
Read the full report here.

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Irish taxi software company secures Téo Taxi’s former R&D team, opens Montreal office

iCabbi, an Irish automated taxi booking company, has acquired the research and development team of the now-defunct all-electric cab company Téo Taxi, and has opened a new office in Téo Taxi’s home city of Montreal.
“Montreal was an attractive base to support our expansion into North America, proving itself as a hub for R&D in tech mobility.”
 
With close ties to Montreal’s AI and tech mobility scene, the company aims to invest in the city’s innovation ecosystem and local tech talent.
“We are extremely pleased that iCabbi recognized the value in keeping these high-quality tech jobs based here in Montréal, where we can continue to contribute to the tech mobility ecosystem here and now on a larger scale, internationally,” said Yasha Sekhavat, the former chief marketing and product officer for Téo Taxi who now joins iCabbi as its VP of product for North America.
iCabbi provides cloud-based taxi dispatch systems that integrate with websites, booking engines, and mobile booking apps. The platform uses artificial intelligence for its Intelligent Voice Assistant (EiVA), to simplify the booking experience for both the customer and the taxi company.
Téo Taxi, owned by Taxelco, was co-founded in 2014 and acquired Montreal’s biggest tax fleet in 2016. The company, which sought to challenge ride-sharing behemoths like Uber with a fleet of electric cars, laid off all its drivers in January. Shortly after Téo Taxi ceased operations, iCabbi opened a new office in Montréal.
iCabbi said the 21 developers joining its Montreal-based team will bring local knowledge and expertise to iCabbi’s global customer base, working on best in class user booking experience, data science, and accelerating electric vehicle (EV) and AI integration in the iCabbi Dispatch solution.
“It was an unmissable opportunity that fit with our strategy,” said iCabbi founder and CEO, Gavan Walsh. “EVs, AI, and data are key to our plans to continue transforming forward-thinking taxi fleets throughout the world.
As the location of Canada’s AI supercluster, Montreal has also seen accelerators like NextAI and TechStars, as well as companies like DeepMind and Borealis AI open or move operations to the city.
“Montreal was also an attractive base to support our expansion into North America, proving itself as a hub for R&D in tech mobility, and this team shares our vision and ambition,” said Walsh. “We’ve now got the largest dev team in this space and are in a rapid innovation phase across current and new solutions for our customers.”
The Montreal team now brings the company’s R&D team to more than 76 employees and its total headcount to more than 150, including iCabbi’s presence in Canada, the US, and Europe.
Image courtesy iCabbi.

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OrbCare secures $2 million seed funding for healthtech software

OrbCare, a healthtech company based in Toronto, has announced the close of its seed funding round, raising $2 million in equity financing.
“One of our strategies is to prove to ourselves that we have a well-defined, operational company.”
The round was led by iGan Partners, a Toronto-based early stage healthtech VC, and saw participation from its network of co-investors, which were undisclosed. This marks the first round of funding for the company, and its total funding to date. The investment will go towards sales and operations and helping OrbCare increase its presence in North America, focusing on the US.
The company has developed software looking to fix inefficiencies that exist within the healthcare system. Orbcare’s platform includes features such as phone integrations, e-referral agents, and an AI chatbot called Orbie. The company markets its software to large medical practices including doctor offices, as well as enterprises. The software aims to cut down on time spent answering phone calls, requesting referrals, and calling patients to remind them about appointments.
“Orbcare is focused on aggregating data in the cloud from a multitude of endpoints,” the founder and CEO, Manny Abraham, told BetaKit. “We make use of its ability to use that to better service the operational efficiencies for individual practices, and the ability to return a greater ROI. That’s our goal.”
The company currently provides service in the US, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia, and will soon expand to New Zealand. OrbCare works with several regional health organizations including the Canadian Mental Health Association—Peel region, Whitby Urgent Care Walk-in Clinic, and the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority.
This round of equity financing, led by iGan Partners, is the first round of funding OrbCare has raised, although the company was founded in late 2013.
Abraham, who has been in the healthcare industry for almost 20 years, told BetaKit that the company wanted to build the business before raising funds or receiving too much public attention.
“One of our strategies of bootstrapping and operations is to prove to ourselves that we have a well-defined, operational company,” Abraham said. “We wanted to use our money, create the product, get it operational, build the business, and then use whatever means necessary to promote it.”
The founder was influenced by his experience during the dot-com boom and noted to BetaKit that the company intentionally wanted to stay “low key” until this funding round.
“The capital we have raised in this seed round, with the help of iGan, validates that we are on the right path to solving workflow inefficiencies that occur within medical practices. The goal is to alleviate the pressures that medical practices are under, to make quality care accessible,” Abraham stated.
Currently, OrbCare is not working with hospitals, but does have plans to expand its customer base in the near future. Abraham said the company is looking to raise another round of funding, either a bridge or Series A round, before the end of the year. This additional funding will go towards expansion into hospitals and community organizations.
Abraham explained that while OrbCare has been careful about the amount of funding it raises, large VCs in Canada and the US have been asking the company for additional capital and to open up the company to allow for more investment.
“We’ve kept it under wraps because personally, we wanted to get a better evaluation to raise capital,” he said. “We hit a certain threshold and then we started to rationalize it, and get some outside capital to grow our operations and market presence late last year.”
Featured image courtesy iGan/OrbCare.

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Nova Scotia invests $2 million in pilot program preparing students for province’s tech sector

The government of Nova Scotia has announced a six year pilot program, to be launched September 2019, designed to help students prepare for a career in the province’s technology sector. The government will be investing an initial $2 million into the program.
“The skills gap is mounting as new technologies transform industries and jobs.”
The program, called the Technology Advantage Program, will be run in collaboration with the province, IBM, and the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC). The program is modeled after IBM’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School, known as the P-TECH model, which creates a direct connection between high schools, college, and careers.
Students will be able to participate in the program from grades 9 to 12, and then attend NSCC, where they will work towards a two-year technology diploma. The government will be covering tuition costs.
Students will have access to various workplace experiences that include mentorship opportunities, internships, and co-operative education placement. Graduates of the program will be guaranteed interviews for available IBM job positions.
“As business, government, and education leaders, we all have a role to play to prepare our students for the new technology-driven opportunities of the future,” said Ayman Antoun, president, IBM Canada. “The skills gap is mounting as new technologies transform industries and jobs.”
The program is available to students who attend a junior high school that feeds into Cole Harbour District High School, J.L. Ilsley High School, and Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School. The first class will be made up of about 80 students.
“Creating opportunities for young people to see a future for themselves in Nova Scotia is an important priority for the government,” said Premier Stephen McNeil. “This new and unique program will help address future labour market needs in our province’s growing technology sector.”
Last year, the Nova Scotia government launched a public sector innovation garage in collaboration with IBM. The garage is a space that offers expertise, methodologies, tools, and software in order to deliver public sector programs and services.
Featured image via Pixabay.

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DocuSign expanding Canadian presence, announces headquarters in Toronto

DocuSign, a San Francisco-based company that provides e-signature technology, has announced the opening of its first Canadian headquarters, in Toronto.
“We’re looking to expand our local teams in Toronto and around the country.”
The regional headquarters, to be located in Toronto’s financial district, are part of what DocuSign is calling its “ongoing Invest for Canada initiative.” The office will house sales, marketing, and services teams to support the company’s customers and growth in the region. DocuSign did not state how many employees it is looking to hire.
“Since DocuSign went public almost a year ago, we’ve talked about the renewable market opportunity that e-signature presents, something that’s worth over $25 billion globally,” noted Dan Kagan, general manager for Canada at DocuSign. “We believe that opportunity is reflected in the Canadian market too, and we’re looking to expand our local teams in Toronto and around the country as a result.”
The company said with these headquarters it is interested in expanding its Canadian verticals including healthcare, life sciences, and in particular, the public sector.
“We are seeing organizations of all sizes embracing e-signature to simplify and accelerate the process of doing business,” Kagan said. “Once they realize the impact, they are starting to see how DocuSign can help to automate and impact other departments, functions and tasks within their organization—and how we can modernize their systems of agreement for even greater value.”
In Canada, DocuSign is currently working with businesses including Manulife Financial, the National Bank of Canada, and Telus.
“We are working with DocuSign on the deployment of electronic signature capabilities,” said Jeff Maltez, leader, integration technologies at Manulife. “As customer in Canada, we are thrilled about DocuSign’s continued commitment to the region with the opening of its new Toronto HQ.”
Along with today’s announcement, DocuSign also revealed that Robert Herjavec, CEO and founder of Toronto-based cybersecurity company, Herjavec Group, and Shark Tank TV personality, will be joining DocuSign’s advisory board.
Featured image via Pixabay.

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