Category: BetaKit

Vancouver Trade Accelerator Program receives $1.5 million from federal government

The World Trade Centre Vancouver is receiving a $1.5 million investment from the federal government toward its Trade Accelerator Program (TAP). TAP is a program that operates in various cities across Canada, aiming to help SMEs successfully export goods and services.

“By investing in programs such as TAP, businesses in our region and across the province will benefit.”

A government statement said although Canadian SMEs have access to 1.5 billion customers through various trade agreements, only 12 percent are exporting. The $1.1 billion Export Diversification Strategy is looking to increase Canada’s international exports by 50 percent by 2025. This investment in the Vancouver division of TAP is intended to prepare 700 BC-based SMEs for export.

TAP’s accelerator program offers SMEs access to Canadian export advisors, resources, and contacts, through which companies work to develop an export plan.

The program’s goal is to help SMEs navigate the complex global trade ecosystem, leverag..

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Heyday.ai raises $2 million for AI-powered shopping assistant

Montreal-based Heyday, a digital shopping assistant and live chat solution, has announced the close of a $2 million oversubscribed seed round led by Innovobot. The financing round also includes investments from Desjardins Capital and several strategic investors with deep marketing and retail expertise.

“We’re on a mission to give AI superpowers to CX teams, so they can deliver an unparalleled level of service at scale.”
-Etienne Mérineau

Founded in 2017, Heyday’s platform combines conversational AI and automation with sales and support teams. It has e-commerce and customer relationship management integrations with Shopify, Lightspeed, and Magento. Client brands include Ford, Lincoln, Decathlon, and food product company Danone. Etienne Mérineau, co-founder and CMO of Heyday told BetaKit the company was bootstrapped by its first 20 employees. The company’s headcount currently sits at 20 full-time team members, and five part-time freelancers.

Heyday said this round will help further ..

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Tease Tea opening doors for underrepresented entrepreneurs with new fund

Applications are currently open for a new fund, created by Toronto-based online tea boutique, Tease Tea. The company’s new four-month digital incubator aims to give women-identifying and non-binary entrepreneurs access to funding, mentorship, and resources to accelerate their business.

“I am excited and privileged to be able to give back and provide women-identifying entrepreneurs with access to funding, mentorship and community.”

Created by Tease Tea CEO, Sheena Brady, the Tease Tea Founders Fund is a non-repayable, non-equity investment of up to $20,000 CAD.

The fund is designed to offer participants’ the fundamental aspects of mentorship and feedback, and tackle some of the barriers women-identifying and non-binary entrepreneurs face.

“This has been in my heart and mind for a while now to give back and give opportunities to budding entrepreneurs who are struggling to access support networks,” said Brady. “I am excited and privileged to be able to give back and provide women-ide..

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3 things I wish I’d known before scaling tech companies

It’s no secret that Canada has a scale-up problem. Often, we cite finite resources—talent, money, expertise—as the major barriers to scaling our tech companies at the same rate as our neighbours.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve been the co-founder of two SaaS businesses, and a senior leader at two rapidly scaling companies, including Hootsuite. Now I’m a Managing Director at PwC.

I’ve learned that it’s often the little details and impossible-to-predict moments that are the hardest to navigate. It’s the due diligence emails that need a reply by 8:00 am but require more detailed attention and work than there’s time for. It’s the minutiae of structuring shareholder agreements that retain your top performers. And it’s the unexpected surprises and challenges that arise when expanding into new markets.

Unfortunately, many first time founders—myself included—don’t know where to look for help. Here are some insights I wish I’d known and lessons I’ve learned along the way.

1. Be measured and ..

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True North 2019 announces speakers and ‘Bridges, Not Walls’ theme

For its second iteration, Communitech’s annual True North conference has announced its theme will be ‘Bridges, Not Walls’ in order to examine our interconnected roles as citizens, neighbours, tech creators, and users.

The conference aims to look at the ways technology can be used to impact digital democracy, create new medical technologies, and connect global citizens. The program will include a smart city plan that puts people ahead of tech, the ongoing fight against killer robots, the rise of social enterprise, and ideas for strengthening democracy with tech.

The speakers True North’s for Bridges, Not Walls themed event includes:

Kara Swisher, editor-at-large of Recode: Swisher is also the host of the Recode Decode podcast and executive producer of the Code Conference. A well-known Silicon Valley journalist, Swisher shines a light on the Web’s major players and the Internet policy issues that both unite and divide us.
Tobi Lütke, founder and CEO of Shopify: Lütke has changed the w..

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Mortgage startup, Lendesk, acquired by Quicken Loans parent company

Vancouver-based FinTech Lendesk has announced Rock Holdings, the parent company of US-based Quicken Loans, has acquired a majority stake in the company. The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

“Our partnership with Rock Holdings will allow us to gain wisdom and insight from the world’s leading mortgage technology company.”

Lendesk’s network connects mortgage brokers with Canadian lenders. The platform was designed to serve as the single point of contact for brokers to submit, and lenders to approve, mortgage applications. Under the new agreement, Lendesk will continue to operate independently from its Vancouver headquarters under the leadership of Alex Conconi, the company’s founder and CEO.

“Rock Holdings and Quicken Loans are FinTech pioneers, known for revolutionizing the mortgage industry with game-changing technology,” said Conconi. “Our partnership with Rock Holdings will allow us to gain wisdom and insight from the world’s leading mortgage technology compan..

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Shanghai Yangpu Global Startup competition coming to Toronto in June

The fourth annual Shanghai Yangpu Global Startups Competition semi-final is coming to Toronto on June 22. The competition is hoping to bring together more than 1,000 innovative and entrepreneurial projects from around the world.

Some of the competition’s sectors include new retail, healthcare, blockchain, and software applications.

This year, the competition is offering up to $500,000 CAD in prizes, which is being offered up by the Shanghai Yangpu People’s Municipal Government. There will also be a follow-up system tracking and supporting the award-winning projects. A panel of judges will be representatives from the VC, angel investor, and incubator communities.

To be eligible for the competition, companies must be less than five years old, and there is a bonus award for individuals with a master or above degree from an overseas college. Some of the sectors include new retail, internet, healthcare, blockchain, new energy, software applications, information security, new finance, au..

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Endy competitor Casper officially launches made-in-Canada products

New York-based e-commerce company Casper is opening its first Canadian headquarters, and officially producing made-in-Canada mattresses, putting it in more direct competition with Endy.

“Expanding our operations in the region allows us to meet growing demand across the country.”

The new Canadian headquarters is the company’s first official location outside its two Toronto retail stores, but will also be located in Toronto. Along with this recent announcement, Casper also stated it is adding Dani Reiss, president and CEO of Canada Goose, to its board of directors.

The company first announced plans for its new headquarters and in-Canada manufacturing last April. Now, the company’s two most popular mattresses, the Casper and Essential, are now being made in Canada and are available for shipping in all provinces and territories.

“Casper’s continued investment in Canada helps accelerate our vision of becoming the world’s largest end-to-end sleep company,” said Philip Krim, Casper co-f..

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US-founded VanillaSoft receives $1 million from Canadian Government

US-founded IT company VanillaSoft Corp. has been given a $1 million loan from Canada Economic Development (CED) for Quebec Regions. Although the company is American, it runs its Canadian operations out of Gatineau, Quebec.

“Our platform is helping thousands of salespeople better manage their prospecting activities and increase their sales.”

With the financial assistance, VanillaSoft, whose cloud-based solution aims to boost the productivity of outbound calling in high-quality B2C and B2B sales processes, said it will be able to complete a project to improve its software platform by implementing artificial intelligence. The company also plans to complete an international marketing campaign to expand its solution to markets European and Australian markets with the funding.

“Not only is VanillaSoft helping the Outaouais region build a reputation as a leader in the field of artificial intelligence, but its expertise and the innovative technology it continues to import will allow it to..

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Coconut Software receives $1.75 million in debt financing from CIBC

Saskatoon-based Coconut Software has received $1.75 million in debt financing from CIBC Innovation Banking, with the company intending to support its strategic plan and to invest in its growth.

In the months following its Series A, the company doubled its staff headcount to over 50.

Coconut Software is a cloud-based SaaS appointment scheduling and lobby management solution that is modernizing how banks and credit unions engage with their clients. Its solution aims to drive more customer loyalty to businesses, while providing a personalized user experience.

“CIBC Innovation Banking is excited to partner with a top tier management team that has built a scalable platform that allows clients to personalize relationships with their customers by transforming how they manage appointments,” said Rob Rosen, managing director at CIBC Innovation Banking. “Coconut’s solutions are disrupting the industry standard.”

Founded in 2007, Coconut Software is headquartered in Saskatoon, with one office..

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Olivia Steedman heading new Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan investment department

Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan is launching a new investment department, Teachers’ Innovation Platform (TIP). The TIP will focus on late-stage venture capital and growth equity investments in companies that use technology to disrupt current players and create new sectors.

“We are excited to build a platform that leverages our track record, internal talent, and partnership model.”

Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, which has $191.1 billion in net assets as of December 2018, said it believes the new platform can generate strong, above-market returns for its pension plan members. Olivia Steedman will build and lead TIP as its new senior managing director.

“We are excited to build a platform that leverages our track record, internal talent and partnership model,” said Ziad Hindo, chief investment officer at Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. “It will not be anchored to any particular region, meaning we can go anywhere in the world where there is opportunity.”

Steedman has been at Ontario Tea..

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Voiceflow raises $4.7 million CAD following takeover of American competitor

Voice app design and development platform Voiceflow has raised a nearly $4.7 million CAD seed round, following an announcement of what it called a “partnership” with US voice app design startup Invocable.

“The market of a tool for creating voice applications relies on the success of voice applications, which is not there yet.”
-Invocable CEO

Invocable’s features are being integrated into its Canadian competitor’s platform, and the Invocable company will be shutting down in July.

According to a statement from Voiceflow, its new platform will power four percent of the world’s Alexa skills. The news of this partnership comes several months after another competitor platform, PullString, was acquired by Apple.

“We’re incredibly excited to be working with the Invocable team to integrate our technologies to build the industry standard platform for designing and deploying voice experiences,” said Voiceflow CEO Braden Ream. “Invocable has built an incredible design platform and roadmap whi..

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