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Three University of Waterloo students took home the $30,000 top prize at the World’s Challenge Challenge. The students will use the money to build a prototype that has an antimicrobial foam to protect against infections. Their initial target market is Uganda. (Waterloo Record)

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Talking point: This is a business-focused solution to a problem that charities have been trying to address for years. In emerging economies, stigma around menstruation keeps girls home from school. A lack of access to commercial pads and tampons also incentivizes home-grown alternatives such as cloth or newspaper, which—when not properly cleaned between uses—can lead to serious infections like tetanus. Investment in femtech reached US$400 million in 2018, up from US$23 million in 2008. The judges were impressed not only by the students’ product, but also their business plan, which centres on employing local women to make and distribute the pads locally, and to go into schools to teach girls how to properly use them, as well as seeking to destigmatize menstruation.

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The light rail transit system (LRT) will begin running on June 21, just hours before its latest deadline of spring 2019 and two years after it was originally scheduled to be ready. The service will include 14 trains that will run between Waterloo and Cambridge. (Waterloo Region Record)

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Talking point: The Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge region is the second-fastest growing metropolitan area in Canada, according to Statistics Canada, and the LRT project is seen as a key tool for drawing people to the tech-heavy region. KW had also been banking on a high-speed rail line between KW and Toronto. It would have been a boon to companies in the region courting talent from Toronto, and was championed by tech leaders like Steve Woods, Google’s senior engineering director in KW. In April, however, the provincial government announced that the plans would be scrapped.

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The federal government is giving $20 million to Quantum Valley Ideas Lab, a non-profit research facility, via its regional development agency for southern Ontario. Local startups Cognitive Systems, High Q Technologies and Isara will receive $7.3 million, $6.5 million and $7.2 million, respectively, from the Strategic Innovation Fund. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The government is following the lead of one of Canada’s most successful tech entrepreneurs: Mike Lazaridis. The co-founder and former co-CEO of Research in Motion (now BlackBerry) has backed the lab and the startups via Quantum Valley Investments, the fund he co-manages. Lazaridis has said quantum technology—essentially a much faster computer—could turn Kitchener-Waterloo into a true rival to Silicon Valley. But Ottawa isn’t concentrating its quantum bets in Ontario. In June 2018, Burnaby, B.C.-based D-Wave Systems received $10 million from a federal cleantech fund.

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Richard Hughson is studying the connection between physical activity and insulin resistance on astronauts on the International Space Station. The testing will begin after a resupply ship carrying the research equipment reaches the station next week. (The Record)

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Talking point: Astronauts are quite sedentary, so space is a good environment to study just how strong the correlation is between inactivity and insulin resistance, which could provide insights into what Hughson called a diabetes epidemic on Earth. In February, my colleague Jessica reported on a forthcoming report from the Canadian Space Agency outlining how Canada is in a position to “lead the planet” on biomedical technology in space because of its AI talent and robust research institutions. While deep-space healthcare has the potential to make sure astronauts get appropriate care, it has implications for patients on Earth, too. Patients in northern communities could use virtual healthcare developed in space, for example, to access doctors and care remotely.

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The number of scooters is expected to increase from 100 to 150, and the seven-kilometre route will also expand in the near future. The pilot had been on hiatus since November 2018 due to the winter weather. (Waterloo Record)

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Talking point: The Waterloo pilot is being watched across the country by city officials, who are being lobbied to bring scooters to their streets by a number of companies, including Lime, Bird and Uber. The first version of the Waterloo pilot ran from October 2018 to the end of November that year. In that time, riders took over 18,000 trips for an average of about six minutes each. The short time period is noteworthy. Lime pitches scooters to cities as a way of solving last-mile transportation problems, such as getting people from a Go station to their houses; those short trips could indicate that it’s working.

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The school turned out 18.6 per cent of all tech founders in Canada, according to a new report from the Impact Centre at the University of Toronto. U of T grads are the second biggest group of founders at 10.6 per cent. The report also found that 95 per cent of tech founders in Canada have at least an undergraduate degree, and nearly 75 per cent of them were educated here. Just 5.8 per cent are women. (Impact Centre)

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Talking point: The college dropouts who went on to found Apple, Facebook and other Silicon Valley giants have created a narrative that formal education isn’t necessary to launch a successful tech company. But the Impact Centre’s numbers highlight how infrequently that story plays out. In fact, 46 per cent of founders are PhDs. Women are woefully underrepresented, making up just 2.3 per cent of founders with STEM educations. That means although more women are graduating with STEM degrees—now 40 per cent of all STEM graduates in Canada—they still aren’t going on to start tech companies.

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The company plans to fight an enforcement action from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over the company’s 2017 ICO. The regulator said kin, a “token” that can be used in Kik’s messenger app, is a security, and the company should have registered the sale. Kik said kin is not an security, and that the SEC is not accusing it of fraud. (Wall Street Journal)

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Talking point: A Kik win in this court fight could limit the SEC’s authority to police ICOs. The agency has argued that most companies issuing tokens should be registered with financial regulators, and in September 2018, a judge ruled that ICOs count as securities in criminal cases. Kik has also faced regulatory challenges in its home country: Canadians were not allowed to buy kin in the ICO because the Ontario Securities Commission would not tell the company whether or not securities rules would apply to the token issue.

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The University of Waterloo (UW) is replacing its grant model with one that will let angel investors make direct equity investments in local early-stage companies. Its startup incubator, Velocity, is looking to raise more than $1 million for an investment fund under the new model, which it expects to launch in March. The fund is powered by AngelList’s Angel Funds platform, which launched in Canada in June 2018. (Financial Post)

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Talking point: Velocity has held pitch competitions three times a year since 2011, at which four winners each received a $25,000 grant—meaning the incubator has been paying out more than $300,000 per year. This new fund will replace those grants; winners will now be offered $50,000 as an equity investment. UW benefits from the change because its philanthropic capital can now be redirected to other areas, like incubator facility upgrades. But the risk for the university: Velocity will now be judged on the return-on-investment it can create for angel investors. Velocity director Jay Shah acknowledged this, saying, “We’re ready to keep building on the last decade of work to maximize success for startups turning into scale-ups and, by extension, we’re willing to be measured by a more explicit dollars-and-cents performance.”

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OpenText purchased the information integration and data management company for US$310 million. The acquisition allows OpenText to expand its offerings in the life sciences, manufacturing and healthcare sectors. (The Logic)

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Talking point: OpenText has acquired 41 companies to date—four in the past two years. This is its largest acquisition since August 2016, when it purchased Dell-EMC’s enterprise content division for US$1.6 billion. Liaison has a number of high-profile customers, including Mastercard, so this acquisition also gives OpenText the opportunity to sell those customers on its larger suite of offerings, which could potentially be quite lucrative.