Each month, the team at Switchboard connects the dots between the trends, headlines and narratives informing the B.C. tech sector.
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For January’s Connecting The Dots, the Switchboard team discusses the 2023 tech layoffs, breaks down recent funding announcements, and explores new hires and multimillion-dollar M&A action.
B.C. tech layoffs continue in 2023
The Short: A new year brings a new round of layoffs: CanadaDrives announces staff cuts, Hootsuite conducts its third round in six months while installing a new CEO, and Thinkific terminates more than 70 positions.
The Long: As online auto retailers gear down owing to the current economic conditions, Vancouver-based CanadaDrives has announced that it has made the “difficult decision” to reduce its staff. While declining to share the actual number of staff cuts, CEO Cody Green says the move “will allow us best to prepare for the future.”
Hootsuite’s new CEO, Irina Novoselsky, most recently served as CEO of CareerBuilder. She is taking over for Tom Keiser, who had been in the role since 2020. The Vancouver-based company has simultaneously laid off around 7 percent of its current workforce, or about 70 people. Since August last year, Hootsuite’s employee base has decreased by more than 35 percent. In a statement about the layoffs, a spokesperson said: “It was a difficult decision to make, but these reductions to our global workforce will best position Hootsuite for the long term.”
B.C.-born cloud-based software platform Thinkific, which enables entrepreneurs and businesses to create and sell digital learning products, has announced another reduction to its workforce, this time amounting to 76 employees. Following a 20-percent reduction in staff (or 100 employees) in March of 2022, this marks Thinkific’s second round of layoffs in less than a year. According to a Thinkific statement, the cuts align its workforce with key growth initiatives, and will enable the firm to achieve positive adjusted earnings before income, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) by the end of 2023.
Funding flows into B.C. tech
The Long: CubicFarms, a local-chain agtech firm that develops controlled-environment agriculture technology, has announced funding from the Canadian Food Innovation Network (CFIN). Alongside Winnipeg-born TheoryMesh and EcoDairy, the trio of companies are working on a traceable supply chain for beef and dairy. The CFIN, a national non-profit organization designed to stimulate transformative innovation across the Canadian food sector, awarded the companies a total of nearly $1.3 million through the Food Innovation Challenge. The Challenge funds projects focused on smart product and process development, food ecosystem sustainability, and agile and safe supply chains.
“These projects demonstrate the wide-ranging and impactful innovation that’s happening across the country,” CFIN CEO Joseph Lake said. “Innovative Canadian companies are leveraging frontier technologies like blockchain, artificial intelligence, and IoT to transform our food industry and sustainably change the way food is produced, transported, and consumed.”
Traction Complete secured a $5-million growth financing round led by Vancouver’s Pender Ventures and San-Francisco-based Thomvest Ventures. One of Traction on Demand’s first products, Traction Complete provides Salesforce apps designed to help organizations make sense of their data and automate sales and marketing-related processes. The company has enabled high-growth organizations like DocuSign and the LA Dodgers to sell more effectively and scale faster through technology. The funding will fuel Traction Complete’s hiring efforts to meet customer needs as the company has experienced accelerated growth year over year, as well as marketing initiatives.
As Traction Complete CEO David Nelson explains, revenue operations teams are “trying to make more data-driven decisions, and this funding helps us to develop our new solutions.” This is “empowering businesses with cleaner data and better visibility into customer relationships,” and “enabling more effective sales planning and territory execution through automation.”
Vancouver-based agtech firm Terramera has announced a USD $6-million seed funding for EnrichAg, its subsidiary company focused on building tools to support soil health. According to Terramera, EnrichAg will provide cheaper, faster, and more accurate soil composition analysis than current methods, helping farmers better understand their soil health and reduce fertilizer costs. This is EnrichAg’s first close of seed funding. The venture looks to secure an additional USD $9 million in investment this quarter for a total seed round of USD $15 million.
Latest partnerships in B.C. tech
The Short: The Digital Technology Supercluster introduces its first-ever chief development officer; Vancouver’s Klue acquires Massachusetts-based DoubleCheck Research; and Tiny announces a merger with WeCommerce.
The Long: A new year often brings new beginnings with it. Such is the case for the newly renamed Digital Technology Supercluster, which has announced former Board Co-Chair Edoardo De Martin as its first-ever CDO.
According to CEO Sue Paish, “As we near our fifth anniversary, our new identity as the Digital Global Innovation Cluster (Digital) reflects the global scope of our mission to build world-leading digital solutions to some of the planet’s biggest problems through co-investment, cross-sector collaboration, and digital talent development. Now that we have cemented and validated our game-changing model for advancing digital tech, and with Edoardo returning to lead our strategic direction, we are accelerating the application and reach of our model, and partnering with a wider range of companies and organizations.”
De Martin served as Co-Chair of the organization’s Board from 2018 to 2021. He most recently held the position of interim CEO at B.C.-based agtech company CubicFarms. Before that he was General Manager of the Microsoft Vancouver Development Centre, which he grew from 300 to 1,700 team members, and led the delivery of Need for Speed Underground, a top-selling video game worldwide, for Vancouver-based Electronic Arts. He also serves on the boards of Innovate BC, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, the Richmond Hospital Foundation, and LlamaZOO Interactive.
Klue, an artificial intelligence (AI) startup that provides competitor and market intelligence for businesses, has announced the acquisition of Massachusetts-based DoubleCheck Research, which helps organizations improve win rates by examining why they are winning and losing business. According to a company statement, Klue will now be the “premiere source of truth for buyer intelligence and competitive insights,” with the addition of DoubleCheck ““offering a solution that can deliver tactical insights to help close deals today while also enabling executive leadership with insights they need to make informed decisions for tomorrow.”
Victoria-based holding company, Tiny, has entered into an agreement to merge with ecommerce business WeCommerce, along with another subsidiary in a “three-cornered amalgamation.” Tiny is a tech holding company that invests in and takes majority positions in a variety of businesses. Founded by Andrew Wilkinson and Chris Sparling, Tiny has acquired over 30 companies since its inception in 2016. A statement from WeCommerce pins the total equity value at $911 million. However, the ultimate value of the new entity will be determined by the market.