These innovators are stepping up to combat COVID and climate change | The Sunday Briefing

The most creative solutions to national problems are being built by BC technology companies.

Good morning and welcome to the new Vancouver Tech Journal subscribers reading this Sunday. Make sure to stay engaged all week by connecting with us on TwitterLinkedIn and the 1,100+ member Vancouver Tech club on the Clubhouse iOS/Android apps.

If you’re not already on Clubhouse but want to be, please get in touch for an invitation. You don’t want to miss this week’s conversation with Joseph Nakhla, founder and CEO of Tribe Property Technologies. Join our weekly show, Vancouver Tech Morning Coffee, to hear from him on Tuesday at 9am PST. *Adds to calendar*

Today’s Briefing is 1,916 words, a 6-minute read. Enjoy!

-William (@notionport)


Cover Story: A mission to make things better

Dr. Sam Gharbi has been obsessed with improving healthcare since day one of being in it. And Arya Health—the electronic health records company he’s building from BC—is a culmination of a decade spent asking, "How can I make this better?”

For Dr. Gharbi’s remarkable story, which takes him from “rural and urban Quebec, rural and urban British Columbia, Northwest Territories, and several States in the US and France,” read James Matthews’ piece: ➝ Dr. Sam Gharbi on riding the healthtech rollercoaster from med school to Arya Health


BC’s ‘climate champion’ heads east

Squamish-based Carbon Engineering is one of 10 companies selected for the Mission from MaRS: Climate Impact Challenge, a program to help grow Canada’s most promising climate-technology ventures.

The BC clean energy company has the wind at its back, with new customer deals that include Shopify and the UK government, and a recent $68 million USD round of funding from Bill Gates, Chevron Technology Ventures, Thomvest Asset Management and other investors. ➝ Read more.


“One of the most significant M&As ever in BC!”

Vancouver’s Precision NanoSystems Inc. (PNI) has been acquired by Danaher Corporation’s Life Sciences platform for an undisclosed amount.

While one might view the Danaher sale as yet another BC firm—and its corresponding talent and IP—lost to a US giant, CEO James Taylor calls the news “fantastic for everyone involved in Vancouver.” He says Danaher will be a critical partner and help his company carry out its mission to accelerate the creation of transformative medicines, including vaccines. “This provides us with a much bigger platform for global commercialization and growth,” he told Vancouver Tech Journal➝ Read more.


⏩ Quick takes.


💵 Funding and deals.

Fintech company Bench announced that it raised $72.5 million ($60 million USD) in Series C financing led by Contour Venture Partners, with support from Altos Ventures, iNovia Capital, BMO T&I, and new investors including Sage and Shopify.

  • As part of the raise, Bench announced a major relaunch of its product offering, which will see the fintech now offer banking, cards, payroll and other services. “We’re here to make a profound difference in the quality of life of one million business owners. We’ve re-imagined Bench from the ground up to do that, and our new funding will allow us to continue reinforcing our product and service vision,” said Ian Crosby, the CEO and co-founder of Bench. ➝ Read more.

Clir Renewables, which leverages AI and data to help clients maximize the financial returns of renewable energy assets, closed a $27 million Series B funding round.

  • The financing was co-led by Longbow Capital Inc. and ArcTern Ventures, and included, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments), BDC Capital, Active Impact Investments and Tokio Marine HCC. Clir has now raised a total of $35.9 million in equity funding and $8.7 million in non-dilutive funding. ➝ Read more.

Genome BC invested $1.2 million into Stoko Design Inc., which manufactures the K1—an innovative replacement for traditional rigid knee braces in the form of athletic tights. 

  • Earlier this month, Stoko raised $6 million in seed funding from multiple sources including John Currie, the former CFO of lululemon, Norm Francis, CEO of Boardwalk Ventures, Greg Malpass, CEO of Traction on Demand, Darrell Kopke, CEO of Adelhard (formerly Kit and Ace and lululemon) and Paul Geyer, CEO of Discovery Parks and Nimbus Synergies. ➝ Read more.

Vancouver’s Operto, which provides vacation rental and hotel automation technology, acquired VRScheduler, which automates back-of-house scheduling workflows for housekeeping and maintenance.

  • The outlet Skift notes that Operto has “the backing of Darren Huston, who for four-and-a-half years was CEO of Booking Holdings (then called Priceline Group). Huston is the startup’s executive chairman, and his investment firm BlackPines Capital Partners is a majority investor.”

Vancouver fintech company Mogo has increased its ownership in Toronto cryptocurrency startup Coinsquare for the second time since February.

  • “As part of the deal, which was struck May 31, Mogo has also secured an option to buy an additional 3.4 percent of outstanding Coinsquare shares from vendors,” reports Josh Scott, “which, combined with a prior warrant, gives Mogo the ability to purchase an approximately 53 percent stake in the crypto firm.”


🗞️ More news to know.

As Asian Heritage Month drew to a close, the Vancouver Economic Commission took time to highlight Vancouver and BC entrepreneurs, investors, community organizers, not-for-profit advocates and artists of Asian descent. 

This feature is a modest show of appreciation and solidarity with some of the friends, colleagues, collaborators and leaders whom we have crossed paths with or taken inspiration from as we work on building an inclusive, equitable, innovative and resilient economy for all. Each of these people to watch embody championship, success, community and building resilience in some way – and they are gaining momentum.

The BC-based Digital Technology Supercluster and DNAstack recently announced the Autism Sharing Initiative.

  • It’s a new project to build the first federated, global network for sharing genomics and clinical data to accelerate research with the hopes of developing precision healthcare approaches for autistic individuals. The project is an $11.2 million initiative, including $4.3 million provided by Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster. ➝ Read more.

Local agtech startup CubicFarms announced trailing 12 months revenue up 662% year-over-year.

  • “This is our strongest quarter to date, with more than $3.9 million in revenue in the first quarter of the year, along with signing new customer orders for 42 modules of our indoor growing technologies,” said Tim Fernback, CFO, CubicFarms. 

Loop Insights rebranded itself as ‘Fobi AI’ as it transitions out of startup mode to become an enterprise player.

  • The Vancouver-based data intelligence company said the purpose of the rebrand is to help the company align with its key product, the Fobi IoT platform.


💡 Ideas and insights.

  • Annika Lewis, an investor with Vanedge Capital, argues that Decentralization is Not Binary. “It’s time we shift the nomenclature around centralization and recognize it for what it is: a spectrum, and one that traverses multiple dimensions,” she writes. “We don’t do ourselves any favours by blindly talking about a ‘decentralized future’ as utopia, without considering the depth of its implications.”

  • Hussein Hallak, co-founder and CEO of Next Decentrum, shares how the local incubator Launch Academy changed his life. “Everyone’s story is different, everyone’s circumstances are unique, and no matter how much we knew, we had to acknowledge there was more to learn, more to do, and more to build,” he writes.

  • Ayelen Osorio, who writes The Misfit newsletter (and often about crypto), believes the lines between truth and lies have never been so blurred. To combat misinformation, when she reads anything, she asks three questions: 1. Who wrote it and why do I think they wrote it? 2. What was their angle? 3.What did they not say in the article? “Technology is distorting a lot of things, our realities being one of them,” she observes.

  • Shape Immersive managing partner Darn Burgar wrote a compelling personal essay in NextShark titled “How I Came to Terms With Being Asian.”


👔 People going places.

Former Ericsson executive Manish Kamra joined Hootsuite as SVP of Software Development to build out the company's long-term technology development strategy.

  • Kamra, who has previously held roles at companies like Blackberry, Intel, and Optiva, will leverage his expertise to evaluate emerging technologies and engineering practices with a strategic focus on partnerships and potential acquisitions. He will also manage corporate research and development for production operations and security. ➝ Read more.

Matt Schoenfeld will soon join cybersecurity firm Absolute Software as chief revenue officer, which will see him oversee all revenue-generating activities including the global sales organization, sales operations, channel partnerships and development, and customer experience.

  • Matt most recently served as an Executive in Residence at venture capital giant Greylock Partners, where he consulted on a portfolio of cybersecurity and other companies.

In more bioscience news, Derm-Biome Pharmaceuticals Inc added Drs. Youwen Zhou and Andy Sham to its newly created scientific advisory board (SAB).

  • Both Drs are experts in the fields of chronic inflammatory skin diseases and the microbiome. The SAB will guide and advise the company as it moves its proprietary topical therapeutics for chronic inflammatory skin diseases and conditions towards human trials.

Andrew Chan joined NextTech AR Solutions as chief financial officer. 

  • In addition, the company, which closed a $14 million bought deal last month, appointed Paul Moon as vice president of investor relations.


🧰 Startup toolbox.

  • Innovate BC’s Ignite Program provides up to $300,000 to fund innovative projects in the areas of natural resources, applied science and/or engineering. Learn more and apply.

  • Applications for Deloitte’s 2021 Technology Fast 50™ program are now open. Learn more and apply.


🎧 A/V: Watch & Listen


📅 Upcoming devents.

  • At 9am on Tuesday, June 8, 2021 | Vancouver Tech Morning Coffee, featuring Joseph Nalhla, founder and CEO of Tribe Property Technologies.

  • At noon on June 8, 2021 | 2021 SMEs Economic Outlook, hosted by the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, and featuring Pierre Cléroux, Vice President, Research and Chief Economist, BDC and Bridgitte Anderson, President and CEO, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, among others.

  • June 17, 2021 | Transition into Tech, hosted by Northeastern University, will teach attendees why there's never been a better time to work in tech.


🔥 Greatest hits.


✅ Action items.

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