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Toronto’s Radical Ventures joined the round for the Berkeley, Calif.-based startup, whose AI-driven software enables warehouse robots to better grab and manipulate objects. Index Ventures led the round, and existing investor Amplify Partners also invested in the three-year-old company. The company harvested US$20 million in Series A funding in January. (The Wall Street Journal, Crunchbase)

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Talking point: Covariant waltzed out of stealth mode in January into a seemingly perfect market for its wares: the COVID-19-fueled breakdown of the mostly human supply chains behind the production and movement of goods. The company will focus on tasks like recycling, manufacturing and agriculture “where there are repetitive manual processes,” said CEO Peter Chen. AI-focused Radical is currently investing out of its US$350-million second fund, which launched a year ago.

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Georgian Partners led the Montreal-based manufacturing automation startup’s latest round. The company will use the financing to further develop Vention’s cloud-based platform and “grow its library of plug-and-play automation components, and continue international expansion.” (The Logic)

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Talking point: Vention is the latest manufacturing startup space to announce investment in recent days: on Monday, Waterloo’s Clearpath Robotics raised $40 million in Series C funding and Quebec-based Poka, which has created a connected worker, closed a $6.4-million round. Vention’s technology is used in over 1,000 factories, including those owned by Bombardier, Tesla, Siemens and BMW. Its Series B round comes just over a year after Vention raised $17 million in Series A financing; according to The Globe and Mail, the company is likely valued at more than US$150 million after this latest round. CEO Etienne Lacroix, a former GE product manager and McKinsey & Company consultant, expects the pandemic to slow its sales growth; he said revenue increased by around 400 per cent last year.

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The round, led by Kensington Private Equity Fund, will help the Kitchener, Ont.-based robotics firm scale its operations. Otto, a division of Clearpath Robotics, uses pallet-sized autonomous vehicles to transport goods to assembly lines on factory floors. Its customers include Toyota, GE and Nestlé. Other investors in the round included Inovia Capital, BMO Capital Partners and Export Development Canada, which participated through the fund-matching program it launched in response to the pandemic. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The round brings Otto’s financing to US$70 million since 2015, according to Crunchbase. It comes as factories globally rethink their operations with new considerations around physical distancing. The virus has delivered a blow to global manufacturing, and resuming operations is largely contingent on limiting the spread of the virus. The meat-processing sector, which COVID-19 has hit particularly hard, is considering ways to increase automation and limit human contact in facilities. While increased robotics may help stimulate manufacturing in the short -term, it raises questions about prolonged unemployment among the workforce whose positions may become redundant or even deemed a liability.

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The Vancouver-based character simulation software firm’s latest round was led by Grishin Robotics, Toyota AI Ventures and Millennium Technology Value Partners’ New Horizons Fund. (BetaKit)

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Talking point: The company plans to use the funds to make new hires and further develop its digital character generator. The company’s software has been used by over 100 studios in productions like “Game of Thrones” and Captain Marvel, and co-founder James Jacobs has been recognized by the Academy Awards.

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The Montreal-based startup has laid off 15 per cent of its staff and appointed two revenue-focused executives as part of a shakeup at the four-year-old company. (The Globe and Mail)

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Talking point: Long the darling of Montreal’s AI sector, Element AI has snapped up federal government contracts and millions in funding, including $200 million in Series B cash from the likes of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, among others, in September 2019. Yet the company has continually struggled to monetize its hype, while the leadership of CEO Jean-François Gagné has been fraught. In October, the company dropped out of the NSERC Canadian Robotics Network in part to focus “on delivering revenue-generating software products to market,” Element senior vice-president Philippe Beaudoin told The Logic in February. The executive appointments give the company its first ever chief financial and chief revenue officers.

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MDA, which produces the Canadarm family of space robotics, will support robotic operations on the ISS. The $190-million contract will see the Montreal-based company oversee operations and maintenance of Canada’s contribution to the 20-year-old space station, including hardware, software and logistics engineering. (The Logic)

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Talking point: A group led by Northern Private Capital, Senvest Capital and Fonds de solidarité FTQ, the investment arm of Quebec’s largest union federation, along with former BlackBerry co-CEO Jim Balsillie, among others, closed the billion-dollar purchase of the company from Maxar in April. Its new owners hope the storied company, which was founded in 1969, will be one of the beneficiaries of the so-called “new space race,” in which NASA and two noted billionaires race to put humankind on the Moon and beyond.

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Greenwich, Conn.-based private equity firm L Catterton, whose investments include Restoration Hardware and Peloton, participated in the round. FYidoctors has a network of 250 optometry offices—practices that eye doctors have sold to FYi in exchange for cash and shares in the company. (The Globe and Mail)

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Talking point: FYi is among a growing number of companies looking for investment opportunities in medical practices. In the first quarter of 2019, 45 physician practices were announced or closed in the U.S., setting the industry up for a record year for deals. The funding can help physicians cover administrative overhead and save the time it takes to manage an office. FYi’s fundraising lands at a time when Alberta is seeing increasing large deals for companies outside the oil and gas sector, including Benevity, an online donations platform, that raised $40 million in October 2019, and Attabotics, a warehouse robotics firm that closed a $25-million round in July the same year.