Unbounce's Translator in Chief | The Sunday Briefing
"We believe in a true partnership between our customers and machine learning. It’s about augmentation, rather than automation.” - Tamara Grominsky, chief strategy officer at Unbounce.
Good afternoon and welcome to the hundreds of new Vancouver Tech Journal subscribers reading this Sunday. To stay engaged all week, make sure you connect with us on Twitter, LinkedIn and the new Vancouver Tech club on the Clubhouse app. If you’re not already on Clubhouse but want to be, please get in touch for an invitation.
Today’s Sunday Briefing is 1,756 words, a 5 + ¾-minute read. Enjoy!
Cover Story: Tamara Grominsky and the Future of Unbounce
Last week for the third time in under three years, Tamara Grominsky was promoted—from Vice President of Strategic Growth to Chief Strategy Officer at marketing automation platform Unbounce. It’s rare for anyone to climb a corporate ladder that quickly in any industry, let alone a woman in tech. In an exclusive story, Vancouver Tech Journal explores how she did it and whether what got her here will get her and Unbounce where they must go next.
23 Vancouver tech and business power players to know in 2021
Here in Vancouver where so many people contribute to the growth and success of the innovation economy, it’s difficult to give any single person credit. Fortunately, no one’s asked us to do that. Instead, we took it upon ourselves to highlight a group of people who deserve at least some credit—for being ambassadors, leaders and advocates.
Shopify executives launch investing collective Backbone Angels
A slate of current and former Shopify executives, including Vancouver’s Lynsey Thornton, launched an angel investing collective called Backbone Angels. The group will invest in women and non-binary founders with a focus on investments in Black, Indigenous, and Women of Colour-led companies. Thornton, Shopify’s Vancouver-based Managing Director, U.S. West, explains the collective’s value proposition like this:
When somebody gets investment from our group, even if they only get investment from two of the angels, for example, they'll get the capacity of the entire collective, and that encompasses people from talent, marketing, design, and data—and we think that's going to be really valuable for founders.
⏩ Quick Takes
Thinkific, the Vancouver edtech firm that raised $22M last year and experienced a 144-per-cent jump in revenue in 2020, has confidentially filed documents with regulators to go public on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Abcellera, which recently rais $555.5M in the largest Canadian biotech IPO ever, is looking to build a massive purpose-built office and medical laboratory campus in Mount Pleasant.
Vancouver’s Hello Pal, a provider of social-crypto platforms, said its website crashed due to a surge in traffic of over 1000% after it announced the partial purchase of a Dogecoin mining facility.
📈 Pulse check: The health and biotech news keeping hearts racing.
Telus CEO Darren Entwistle apologized after a botched rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine booking system in the Vancouver Coastal Health region. Telus was hired to provide the call centre support for the province’s second-largest health authority to book vaccine appointments—and last Monday, there was complete chaos as many struggled to get through. Health Minister Adrian Dix swiftly threw them under the bus: “Telus failed us yesterday,” he said.
B.C. has been a pioneer in leveraging technology as a tool to make drug use safer, a development driven in part by the province’s overdose history (e.g. 165 deaths this past January alone). An example is Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, which launched the Real-time Drug Alert & Response (RADAR) project that allows drug users to report bad drugs with information attached like purchase location and pictures.
Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster announced an investment in the Workplace Brain Health Platform—a project that aims to develop a brain health data repository to help employers and employees better understand how sleep and meditation impact cognitive function. A total of $2M will be invested, $1.2M of the investment will come from industry and a further $871K will be co-invested through the Digital Supercluster.
🏦 Banknotes: Financial news to know.
Damon Motors, which has developed a smart, fully connected electric motorcycle employing sensor fusion, robotics and AI, raised $30 million and secured $20 million in pre-orders. The bridge round was led by Benevolent Capital, SOL Global Investments, Zirmania, and others.
Active Impact Investments recently launched a new $41 million fund to help start-ups across North America accelerate climate tech solutions. Apparently, Active Impact Investment’s portfolio companies have grown their revenue an average of 515% over an average hold period of 17 months.
D-Wave, the first company to offer a commercially available quantum computer, secured $40-million from the federal government’s Strategic Innovation Fund. Yet, “…after 20-plus years of development and more than US$300-million in funds raised, it is still in the early stages of building a sustainable business.”
Vancouver-based startup DeFi Ventures Inc. raised $2M CAD in its seed financing round, from Canadian angels and VCs, and strategic investments by BIGG Digital and First Block Capital. The company is seeking to streamline access to the assets and technology that power decentralized finance.
BrandProject, a Toronto-based investment firm with an office in Vancouver, has raised $54 million CAD ($43 million USD) in the final close of its first venture fund, BrandProject Capital Fund LP.
📝 Views from the 604: The week’s sharpest ideas and opinions.
Elan Paris, an associate at tech PR firm Switchboard, asks, Is your at-home setup working for you or against you? “If you’re feeling overlooked and less influential on Zoom meetings lately, or are leaving online encounters slightly deflated, don’t despair,” she writes. “It may not be that you’ve lost your spark. Instead, it just might be time for an audit and update of your audio visual equipment. Is it helping you or hindering you?”
Lauren Robinson, a general partner at Highline Beta Fund, argues that Our Future and Economy Lose When Women Leave Power and Wealth on the Table. “With more ‘socially conscious’ investment priorities and increased wealth access, women could be uniquely positioned to shift the innovation landscape and bridge these gendered divides,” she writes.
Jock Finlayson and Ken Peacock ask and answer: How has the B.C. economy fared during the pandemic? They write that “Young people have been disproportionately affected, consumer behaviour has not normalized, housing sales have surged and governments have posted hitherto unimaginable deficits.”
🌱 Cleantech: Good news for the planet.
B.C.-based Carbon Engineering launched a new CO2 removal service that allows customers to purchase the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere using the company's large-scale Direct Air Capture technology. Its first customer is Shopify, which has reserved 10,000 tonnes of permanent carbon removal capacity.
Vancouver’s Ionomr Innovations, which makes ion exchange membranes for a variety of applications, is one of only three startups admitted to the Shell GameChanger accelerator. The company was spun out of SFU four years ago, and it is the only Canadian company admitted to the accelerator.
SFU engineers have developed a mobile thermal battery aimed at harvesting, storing, and transporting heat that’s generated from industrial processes, data centres and even hockey rinks. They calculate that “six mobile heat tanks delivered by truck each day could supply 40% of the Surrey district energy system’s peak heating needs—ultimately reducing the district energy system’s use of natural gas and shrinking its carbon footprint.
💼 Pole positions: Tech jobs that matter.
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😎 Pretty cool: What else is new and novel.
An iPhone 11 spent six months at the bottom of a lake and lived to tell the story. The microphone reportedly doesn’t work, and the speaker is damaged, but the phone is otherwise said to work perfectly. “Apple has said that the iPhone 11 can survive being submerged underwater a maximum of 6.5 feet for a duration of 30 minutes. That’s clearly being conservative, however, as two divers in British Columbia, Canada recently discovered.”
Athena Pathways, which has financial backing from Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster, has set a goal of helping 500 B.C. women enter or advance in artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science. So far, Athena Pathways has supported 250 women through education, employment and mentorship.
In collaboration with Disruption Ventures, The Scotiabank Women Initiative™ is launching the BC RAISE & RISE pitch competition – a virtual pitch competition and conference that presents women entrepreneurs with the opportunity to win a cash investment of $25,000.
ParcelPal, the Postmates of Vancouver, signed an agreement with Oco Meals, one of the city’s fastest-growing meal kit services that offer a weekly subscription service. Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 has led to an increase in consumer demand for food delivery and meal kit delivery specifically, and this is benefitting tech logistics startups like ParcelPal.
📅 Mark your calendar to match ours.
Join us on the Clubhouse app this Tuesday, March 16 at 9am to hear an exclusive conversation with Jill Tipping, CEO of the BC Tech Association, about the future of B.C.’s tech ecosystem. If you need a Clubhouse invite, please email us.
‼️ Double take: In case you missed these stories.
⌛ That’s it. Until next week…
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