Federal funding at the forefront | The Sunday Briefing

An influx of federal cash fuelled the local innovation economy this week.

Good morning and welcome to the new subscribers reading this Sunday.

As the day’s fourth cup of coffee courses through my veins—a 5:00am emotional roller coaster courtesy of the Canadian Women’s National Soccer Team will do that to ya—I invite you to stay connected with us all week on InstagramTwitter and LinkedIn. Better yet, join us for coffee (in person) to chat all things Vancouver tech this Tuesday, August 10 at 8am. The community will be meeting at The Birds & The Beets (outside tables) at 55 Powell St. in Vancouver. Please sign-up.

In this week’s Briefing, I’m excited to highlight the sportstech company making athletes’ lives easier, Disney’s new Vancouver studio and 31 other stories.

Today’s Briefing is 1,852 words, a 6 minute read. Let’s dive in.

James (@jimmermatthews)


💰 Feds invest $20M into FORM, Klue and 8 more BC innovators; $553.1M into new Regional Development Agency and $7.9M into salmon innovation

Local MP Terry Beech announced Thursday that 10 BC companies will receive funding through Western Economic Diversification’s Business Scale-up and Productivity program to grow emerging sectors. Together, the companies will receive a combined total of $20,699,782.

We’ve compiled the companies, their project descriptions, locations and funding amounts. ➝ Get the full list.

The Scale-up funding wasn’t the only item on Beech’s Thursday agenda. Alongside The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Beech was also part of the announcement that the Government of Canada is launching a new Regional Development Agency for British Columbia.

Known as Pacific Economic Development Canada (PacifiCan), the BC-specific agency will maintain its current office in Vancouver, move to establish its new headquarters in Surrey and expand its reach by establishing new service locations in Victoria, Campbell River, Prince Rupert, Fort St. John, Prince George, Kelowna, and Cranbrook over the coming months.

In Budget 2021, the Government of Canada provided this new BC-focused agency with $553.1 million over five years, starting in 2021-22, and $110.6 million ongoing. 
➝ Get the full story.

Lastly, the Government of Canada announced $7.9 million in funding for seven projects under the British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund (BCSRIF).

Innovation is clearly at work in these projects, which showcase the tremendous contributions of British Columbians to their province’s fish and seafood industry. Investments in these projects are vital to the sustainable growth of our seafood industry and securing the future of our coastal economies,” Beech said.


☠️ The office is dead narrative is finally dead

Electronic Arts (EA) announced its office expansion in the False Creek Flats neighbourhood last week, signifying a rebuttal to the pandemic-era "The Office Is Dead" narrative.

Here are five notes on the WFH/Return To Office dynamic in Vancouver: 
➝ Get the full story.


⏩ Quick takes.


💵 Funding and deals.

Hootsuite announced that it’s acquired Montreal’s Heyday, a conversational AI platform that helps brands engage online shoppers through 1-to-1 messaging, for $60 million.

It’s Hootsuite’s 2nd acquisition of the year and 14th since 2010. ➝ Get the full story.

Go deeper: From Swift to Sparkcentral, a timeline of Hootsuite's acquisitions


Vancouver-based Yaletown Partners announced the initial $130 million close of their $200 million Innovation Growth Fund II (IGF II).

IGF II seeks to build upon Yaletown's first Innovation Growth Fund (IGF I) and brings the firm’s active funds to over $375 million. ➝ Get the full story.


Venture capital firms poured $7.5-billion into Canadian companies in the first half of 2021 in 349 financing rounds, according to data company Refinitiv. 

Vancouver’s Trulioo topped the list of financings with a $476-million round led by Menlo Park’s TCV.


SMRT1 Technologies, a Nelson-based supplier of smart vending solutions, has signed a five-year contract to provide smart vending solutions to Vancouver-based company, UpMeals.

SMRT1 Technologies provides the software to allow vending machines to operate at an advanced level. Smart vending machines can be described as intelligent machines that grab the attention of customers and offer a wide range of products. The analytics are used to create a real-time experience where the customer is pushed to spend as much as possible in their exchange with the vending machine.


CRH Medical Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vancouver health tech consolidator WELL Health, completed its acquisition of 51% of Greater Washington Anesthesia Associates.

GWAA's current estimated ARR is approximately US$3.3 million and has operating EBITDA margins of approximately 50%. The acquisition marks CRH's 37th (!) transaction.


A new partnership between Simon Fraser University’s Personalized Lightweight Apparel Network (PLANet) and Mitacs, will accelerate the development of new Canadian wearables and gear over the next five years.

The agreement provides $5.1 million in funding for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to work with the industry to develop new technologies that will benefit societal health and wellbeing.


A surge in participation for the Digital Marketing Bootcamp is leading to its expansion. An additional $2.5 million from the BC Government. The additional funding will see the program add 3,400 more seats.

The Digital Marketing Bootcamp launched in November 2020 and offers small and medium-sized businesses the opportunity to build foundational skills in digital marketing.


MakerSights, which builds tech that helps retailers with data-driven product strategy and has a small Vancouver office, raised a $25.6million Series B round of funding.


🗞️ You should also know that…

Walt Disney Animation Studios is opening a new Vancouver studio in order to increase production volume.

While the company’s Burbank studio will continue to lead feature film projects, the new Vancouver facility will focus on long-form series for Disney+, including the upcoming Moana. The company is hiring for the Vancouver facility immediately in the areas of production, technology and overhead departments. ➝ Get the full story.


PlayWize, a local Sporting Marketplace App that helps athletes build their brand and leagues manage their players, has partnered with professional rugby league, Premier Rugby Sevens (PR7s).

Founded by Gary Boddington—a South African Olympian turned serial entrepreneur—and Ray Walia, who has made Olympic-sized contributions to Vancouver’s tech ecosystem, PlayWize’s mission is to modernize the financial management of athletes careers with smart contracts, instant payments and simple processes that enhance athlete empowerment. This mission goes hand-in-hand with the new leagues’ approach:

PR7s is the first league of its kind in the USA, with both Men's and Women's teams, with a focus on pay equality for all, entertainment and accessibility for all fans.

➝ Get the full story.


The New Ventures BC Competition, presented by Innovate BC, spotlighted four more promising startups: SalonMonster, Difinity Solutions, ImmiSearch and Matidor.


💡 Ideas and insights.

Telus CEO Darren Entwistle says the Canadian telecommunications market and the launch of 5G technology are being hampered by regulations and expensive spectrum auctions.

"5G spectrum auctions around the world confirm that international carriers pay much less for this resource than their Canadian counterparts," Entwistle told analysts on a call. ”Canada's position as a global network leader is being undermined by burdensome regulations governing access to spectrum and its cost."


Michael McCullough argues ‘Why Telus stock is suddenly moving skyward.’

“…whereas rivals Rogers Communications and BCE diversified into sports and media properties—both sectors that suffered under COVID—Telus has branched out into sunrise industries such as customer service technology (Telus International), digital health services (Telus Health) and digital optimization for farmers (Telus Agriculture). The spinoff of Telus International in February awakened investors to the possibility of multiple value-creating spinoffs spreading their wings in the future,” he writes.


UBC Origin Stories: How 3 UBC researchers turned into entrepreneurs.

In this feature, UBC spotlights three of the stories of UBC founders who moved from scientist to entrepreneur and the advancements they are making through venture building. Read the stories of ABOzymes Biomedical, Biba Cancer Research Foundation and Bioform Technologies.


Thinkific CEO Greg Smith pondered ‘Can The Creator Economy Help Democratize Entrepreneurship?’ for Entrepreneur.

“Indeed, these new tools—and the ways of building community and doing business that they’ve engendered—are expanding possibilities for entrepreneurs traditionally left out of the fold. Around 50 million people now consider themselves creators, according to SignalFire, fostering a “creator economy” now valued at more than $100 billion. The surge has been especially pronounced over the last year, with a growing cohort of women pursuing opportunities in the creator economy,” he writes.


👔 People going places.

Former BC Liberal Party executive director Emile Scheffel has joined Brane Capital, an independent Canadian crypto custody service provider, as vice president, operations.

Scheffel will lead Brane's regulatory and communications functions in Canada and the United States as the company pursues an aggressive commercialization strategy.


Kal Sahota has been named CEO of Vancouver-based startup HeroX, a crowdsourcing platform and an offshoot of Californian platform XPRIZE.

Sahota has navigated her way through the company first as Client Relationships Manager then to VP of Possibilities and now CEO.


Rich Osborn, Managing Partner at Telus Ventures, is stepping away from the role. In a LinkedIn post, Osborn indicated that despite this being his last week in-office he will see out some of his duties through the end of the year. Osborne also teased what’s next for him:

I am working on a view of where the puck is going in early/growth stage venture in few thematic areas. I look forward to speaking with many of you over the months ahead. I will also devote more time to my (growing) portfolio of personal investments in companies such as Alayacare, Klue, Alida, Ecoation, Koble and others.

Osborn is skating that puck to the role of Managing Partner at RecapHealth Ventures.


Lorne Rapkin has been appointed chief executive officer of PlantX, a platform and one-stop-shop for everything plant-based.


🌐 More BC tech headlines from around the web:


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