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The Kitchener, Ont.-based wearables company returned $9.85 million to the federal government on June 30, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada spokesperson Christopher Génier said in response to questions from The Logic(The Logic)

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Talking point: As The Logic first reported, North had received $9.5 million of a $24-million award from the Strategic Innovation Fund by the time it breached its contribution agreement by laying off staff in February 2019. The funding was to pay for facility expansion and hiring, as well as to “support the company’s next-generation product development.” On Tuesday, North announced it was being acquired by Google, and would not release that latest version of its Focals glasses. The Globe and Mail previously reported the deal was worth US$180 million; Génier said the repayment that day “covers the amount provided to the company plus an internal rate of return consistent with the terms of the agreement.”

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Google’s parent company snatched up the smart-glasses maker in a deal worth a reported US$180 million. The company has “built a strong technology foundation, and we’re excited to have North join us in our broader efforts to build helpful devices and services,” said Google senior vice-president Rick Osterloh, adding that the North will stay put in Kitchener-Waterloo. The Globe and Mail was first to report Alphabet’s interest last week. (The Globe and Mail, The Logic)

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Talking point: Named the fastest-growing Canadian tech firm in 2019, North nevertheless struggled to capitalize on its hype. Focals by North, which paired a user’s smartphone to give a head-up information display in its right lens, were cumbersome, buggy and had little appeal to customers, according to an internal memo obtained by The Logic. Last year, North was beset by staff layoffs and the halting of a $24-million job-creation investment. Google’s purchase means North won’t ship its Focals 2.0 as earlier planned.

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The North American division of German payment-processing firm Wirecard, has hired an investment bank to find an acquirer. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The announcement comes on the heels of Wirecard’s bankruptcy filing last week following charges against the firm’s recently resigned CEO Markus Braun, who is accused of “inflating Wirecard AG’s sales volume with fake income.” The US$2.1-billion discrepancy on the company’s books has compelled Germany to overhaul its accounting oversight rules. In a news release announcing its sale process, Wirecard North America distanced itself from its parent company, emphasizing it is a “self-sustaining entity that is substantially autonomous from Wirecard AG.” It also noted its U.S. and Canadian customers, which include WestJet, haven’t had their services disrupted because of the scandal. Selling while its business is still intact could help the North American division—which Wirecard acquired in 2016—safeguard against any ripple-effect from the damage to the brand of its parent firm.

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The sale will come as the eight-year-old firm is reportedly close to running out of money after selling few glasses and failing to attract new investment. (The Globe and Mail)

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Talking point: Alphabet will reportedly acquire the Kitchener, Ont.-based firm at a price below the roughly US$200 million North raised throughout its history. The firm was one of Canada’s highest-profile startups, raising funds from Amazon, Intel and Fidelity and regularly touted by institutions like the Creative Destruction Lab. In December 2019, The Logic reported that North staff had warned CEO Stephen Lake that its glasses didn’t work well for women and were being rushed to market despite bugs. According to The Globe, the firm is unlikely to have sold more than 1,000 pairs. North published over 100 patents in 2019, including ones claiming its products were superior to Alphabet subsidiary Google’s smart glasses.

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“It is out of an abundance of caution, and with much disappointment, that we concluded that cancelling this year’s event is the right thing to do,” said Iain Klugman, CEO of Communitech, in a statement. It is the latest big tech conference to be cancelled, after Collision and Shopify Unite, both of which were planned for Toronto, and Texas-based SXSW. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The tech community has been reeling from the impacts of the coronavirus, with the cancellation of 265 conferences and counting. Apple, which reported today that an employee in its European headquarters in Ireland tested positive for COVID-19, saw its stock dip Monday, though it was up over three per cent in Tuesday afternoon trading. Tech companies have been on the front lines of both preemptive and proactive responses: Amazon has created a US$5-million fund to support small businesses around its Seattle headquarters struggling with a dramatic slowdown since the company instructed its employees to work from home. It has also pledged US$1 million, along with Microsoft and others, to help those without health insurance or sick leave, people with limited English proficiency, communities of colour and health-care and gig-economy workers.