Each month, the team at Switchboard Public Relations connects the dots between the trends, headlines and narratives informing the B.C. tech sector.
For August’s Connecting The Dots, the team highlights resources for those impacted by layoffs, breaks down recent funding announcements and multi-million M&A action, and reflects on the Traction Conference.
Resources for those impacted by layoffs
To say that the last six weeks have been challenging for the B.C. tech sector would be a major understatement. However, for those impacted by the recent layoffs, there are silver linings. For one thing, the province’s tech community is both resilient and supportive of its own, as it showed time and time again during the COVID-19 pandemic. For another, a number of regularly updated online resources highlight enduring career opportunities across the ecosystem:
- Betakit provides a list of hundreds of companies that are continuing to hire
- Tech Talent Canada explores some of Canada’s key tech regions and opportunities available in each
- Vancouver Tech Journal lists companies looking to hire, and talent ready for hire, alongside a running tally of Vancouver tech ecosystem layoffs
Funding rounds in B.C. tech
The Short: Vancouver’s Reusables secures a $100,000 seed investment; BarrelWise lands $3 million in seed funding; Burnaby-based robotics firm Trendi receives $85K; and Victoria-based Origen Air secures $1.5 million.
The Long: Reusables’ $100,000 seed investment came courtesy of Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC). The Vancouver startup’s tech-enabled platform provides sustainable packaging for takeout food, coffee, and other items in lieu of single-use plastic. Recent partnerships with Earls Restaurant Group and IGA are working to replace single-use containers with reusable packaging. With this investment from SDTC, Reusables will be able to scale its IoT-enabled tech platform and help more food businesses transition towards zero-waste packaging. After watching Reusables during LOI’s Demo Day, we will be sure to continue to follow along to what is next.
Vancouver’s BarrelWise secured $3 million in seed funding from Conexus Venture Capital through Emmertech, a $60-million venture capital fund focused on agtech and agribusiness innovation. BarrelWise produces integrated measurement and data systems for improving efficiencies and control in winemaking. With this funding round, the company plans on making high-precision quality control the global standard for wine production.
On a related note, the Canadian Food Innovation Network (CFIN) announced funding for a quartet of nationwide food innovators. Among them is Trendi, a Burnaby-based robotics firm that uses tech to eliminate food waste and improve the usability of ingredients. The company will receive $85,667 for a new project described as “from purees to powders: using rescued foods for healthy soups.” A key aspect of this project is the Smoothie Machine, an automated vending solution that will upcycle food waste and recreate it as healthy fresh fruit, smoothies, or hot soup. This new round of funding comes after a $6.2 million seed raise earlier this year.
Origen Air raised $1.5 million in seed funding through a strategic investment from Toronto-based First Inflection Business Advisors. In efforts to increase commercialization, the funding will go towards what the Victoria company calls Pinnacle, an “industry-first, enhanced plant air purification solution for commercial indoor environments.” The company’s air purification solutions enhance workplaces by improving staff performance, health and wellness, while decreasing absenteeism.
A big month for startups
The Short: Vancouver-based MintList wins a Stevie Award; Active Replica to host B.C.’s first metaverse job fair; SCALE AI invests $50 million across a dozen projects; and UpMeals’ deploys five of its SmartVending machines in Vancouver International Airport.
The Long: MintList becomes the first Canadian company to win a Stevie Award for “Tech Startup of the Year.” MintList’s software simplifies the process of buying and selling vehicles while putting the control back into consumers’ hands. MintList, along with the rest of the Stevie Award winners, will be celebrated on October 15th, 2022, in England, during the first live International Business Awards ceremony since 2019. Check out the full list of winners here. The excitement continues for MintList as the company announced the official launch of “Canada’s first two-sided online vehicle marketplace”. Currently only available to B.C. consumers, the company already has plans underway to expand into other provinces across the country.
SCALE AI, a national investment and innovation hub, announced $50 million in investments across 12 projects, several of which are based in B.C. Designed to contribute to the development of a world-class AI ecosystem, the B.C. projects include:
- Save-On-Foods, which is working with Burnaby’s D-Wave Systems, White Box Analytics, and more to improve logistics
- Vancouver’s Mimik Technology, which received $2 million to develop a data ecosystem and a predictive solution to help businesses overcome current and future supply chain disruptions and crises
- Vancouver-based Canada Drives, which received nearly $1 million to acquire data and machine learning models to fuel the development of consumer-facing solutions
In an effort to connect local companies with talent across virtual worlds, Active Replica is bringing members of B.C.’s tech industry together on August 25th and 26th for the first-ever XR Opportunity Fair. The entirely digital event will be hosted on Active Replica’s Constellation web-based ecosystem, which enables companies to connect their virtual spaces to form a single explorable network, streamlining the process for users and making it easier to discover and engage with different organizations.
Vancouver startup UpMeals’ recently deployed five SmartVending machines throughout YVR as it works to transform the airport’s food and beverages programs. A true reflection of B.C.’s incredible food scene, these vending machines showcase local and seasonal ingredients while providing travellers from all over the world with healthy and nutritious food options. Replenished daily to ensure optimal freshness and packaged in containers that can be either composted or recycled, the machines let travellers choose between individually packaged and ready-to-eat salads, bowls, juices, healthy snacks, wraps, and more.
Switchboard Team reflects on Traction
Prominent tech and business leaders from around the world arrived in Vancouver to attend Traction Conference, which took place from August 10th to 11th. Back in person for the first time since 2019, the conference was hosted by a global community of over 100,000 entrepreneurs and innovators. Here, Switchboard Team member Denver Sparks-Guest breaks down his top 3 takeaways from event attendees:
- “Strategy connects the vision to the tactics” – Sara Hicks, CPO, Mailchimp
Your vision shouldn’t change as it is the purpose of what you do (your North Star). It is the strategy and tactics that will evolve as you work to find ways to accomplish your vision.
- “Believe in Outbound Fury, even if it means sacrificing everything” – Raj Sarkar, CMO, 1Password
Conversational content is an excellent way to market a product, service or client by leveraging topicality to generate awareness.
- “Analysis Relations is a key driver in ‘influencing the influencers’ to make buying decisions” – Kirsten Newbold-Knipp, CMO, FullStory
Investing in relevant long-game data analysis is the way to win over tough influencers by uncovering the “why” behind issues and opportunities while tracking key metrics over time.
As we head into September, here are some upcoming events we’re looking forward to:
- September 15th: #2022TIAs Dragon’s Den Pitch Night
- September 15th: Genome BC Biodiversity Conservation In the Age of Extinction
- September 27th-29th: entrepreneurship@UBC | Immersion Week 2022