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The Toronto ride-sharing network is paying $1 million in stock plus up to $2.5 million in conditional payments over the next two years. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The acquisition gives Facedrive access to HiRide’s over 20,000-person carpooling network, which targets the Kitchener-Waterloo university market. Both companies bill themselves as socially responsible. Facedrive, for example, offers electric vehicles and plants trees to offset its CO2. This is its second recent expansion: in 2019, it expanded to several Ontario communities.

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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.

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Companies at the school have also created more than 7,500 jobs, according to a report commissioned by the university and prepared by Deloitte. Companies that hired Waterloo co-op students netted an additional $525 million in returns in the 2018–19 year. Velocity, the university’s early-stage incubator, helped companies create over 4,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in revenue between 2008 and 2018. (The Logic)

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Talking point: What this study doesn’t measure is almost as interesting as what it does. There’s lots in the 94-page report on money earned by companies affiliated with the university; for example, the Accelerator Centre brought in $1 billion in revenue since 2006 for the late-stage startups it works with. But there are no numbers here on money the university earned on its own intellectual property. In April, my colleague Catherine reported that the University of Waterloo generated $55,327 in 2017 by licensing research and development, after spending $205.7 million. Today’s report provides plenty of evidence for the success of its approach: lots of tech founders, lots of money going to companies and jobs created. One potential conflict brewing: the Ontario government tapped Jim Balsillie, former co-CEO of Research in Motion (now BlackBerry), to lead a group to figure out how universities can make more money off their research.

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The Alexa Voice Tech Accelerator opened to applications from software, hardware and service firms working on voice-powered tech. The centre will select five companies making technology that has the potential to integrate with Alexa, or does so already. The program will begin on December 2 and run for six to 12 months. (The Logic)

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Talking point: This is the first Canadian accelerator to partner with Amazon on voice technology, after a similar program in Seattle launched earlier this year. The programs give Amazon integrated access to early-stage startups, part of its effort to increase its dominance in the voicetech market—expected to reach US$31 billion by 2025—in which Facebook, Google and Apple have also made major investments. Amazon held 64.6 per cent of the smart-speaker market as of September 2018, and is the only tech giant currently running accelerator programs focused on the technology. It also runs a US$200-million Alexa Fund—partnered with the Accelerator Centre for this program—which uses “Alexa fit” as a metric for selecting companies in which to invest.

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The auto manufacturer opened the centre to the media for the first time this week, after spending two years developing its technology team in Waterloo. The company already has 150 employees at the facility, where Ford develops its Sync entertainment and communication system. The company plans to keep growing the workforce next year. (The Record)

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Talking point: Ford has other tech R&D centres in Ottawa, Oakville, Ont. and Michigan. The Canadian facilities, including Waterloo’s, are part of a $500-million investment the company made to expand its innovation efforts in the country. Ford’s interest in developing tech in Southern Ontario puts it up against GM, which since 2018 has been working on entertainment systems and autonomous-vehicle (AV) capabilities at its Canadian Technical Centre in Markham, Ont., which has a 1,000-employee capacity. And after announcing plans to shutter its Oshawa, Ont. plant last November and cut 2,6000 jobs, GM announced a $170-million investment to keep 300 employees, some of whom would work on the company’s AV testing.

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Klugman will leave his post in 2021 after what will be 17 years leading the tech incubator. The Communitech board will start looking for his successor in early 2020. “The time feels right to hand the reins to a new leader who can take us to the next level, and for me to move on to my next adventure,” Klugman said in a press release. He did not say what he plans to do after leaving Communitech. (The Logic)

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Talking point: Klugman has been a vocal advocate for tech startups in the region, pushing for favourable government policies like the Global Skills Strategy and insisting that tech giants like Google contribute mentorship and resources to the local community. Communitech was hit with a 30 per cent funding cut from the provincial government, first reported by The Logic in May, which resulted in the company laying off 15 of its 105 employees. Klugman told The Logic his departure is unrelated. He said the centre is now focusing more on private financing and that, by the time he leaves, funding levels will be back to where they were pre-cuts.

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In an announcement at Communitech on Thursday, Bardish Chagger, House leader and member of Parliament for Waterloo, along with Raj Saini, member of Parliament for Kitchener, said the investment will help attract global investment in a wide range of sectors including information and communication technology and financial and business services. It will come from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario). Meanwhile, FedDev Ontario also announced an investment of $5 million for a new incubator lab in Markham on Thursday. (The Record)

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Talking point: Out of 22 funding announcements made by FedDev Ontario since April, six investments totaling over $72 million were specific to the Waterloo Region, which has a population of just over 600,000. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the region an important place for innovation in Canada, saying that the region’s success has a ripple effect across the country. In April, FedDev Ontario invested $18 million in Communitech, $41 million toward quantum and artificial intelligence research in the region, and invested $6.8 million to help scale three local firms. In May, it invested 2.5 million to help Nicoya, a nanotechnology company, scale up operations and it invested $750,000 in Kitchener, Ont.-based Bridgit, a project management platform company.

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The system performed its first ride at its opening event at Fairway Station in Kitchener, Ont. on Friday at 10:30 a.m. The route stops at 19 stations through the Waterloo Region. The Ion will be free to ride until Canada Day on July 1. Cambridge is the next city slated to get the LRT-based transit system, but it’s years away from starting. (CBC, Global News)

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Talking point: This is the region’s first light rail transit (LRT) system; its launch comes after years of delays since the system was first approved in 2011. Much of the delay stemmed from manufacturer Bombardier, which was supposed to deliver the trains by December 2016; the final vehicles arrived in October the year after. Ion is meant to help with the 200,000 new residents expected to move into the Waterloo Region over the next 20 years, providing a more efficient and environmentally sustainable transit system. Much of that population growth comes from the tech industry—the region has the third-largest tech sector in Canada.

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SAP Labs is adding 30 to 40 people to its 230-person team, and plans to hire 50 more over the next two or three years. The Waterloo development office focuses on database technologies and connected devices. The hires follow a US$1.4-billion restructure that saw 4,400 global employees laid off, including some in Canada. (The Record)

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Talking point: Kitchener-Waterloo (KW) is a magnet for multinationals’ dev shops, in large part because of Canada’s tax credit system, and the region’s talent and affordability. Like many local firms, SAP uses co-op students from the region’s universities; it currently has about 25 on its Waterloo team. Local tech leaders have criticized foreign companies, including Google and Terminal—which hires Canadian engineers to do development work for foreign companies—for cornering talent in the community and sending the proceeds of government-subsidized R&D back to their home bases in the form of intellectual property. SAP said it’s different in that regard: the company reports that 70 per cent of its patents are registered to local lab employees.