“It’s increasingly believed that most medicines of the future will be created by deep learning artificial intelligence,” said Brendan Frey, Deep Genomics’ founder and CEO.
By Amanda Whalen
Thu., Aug. 5, 2021timer5 min. read
updateArticle was updated 3 hrs ago
The booming Canadian tech sector continues to smash records. Buoyed by low interest rates and the increased demand for radical solutions in biotech, cleantech and remote work tools, investment capital is pouring into tech startups.
According to business analytics firm CB Insights, Canadian companies have raised $6.3 billion (U.S.) this year. That’s more than double the $2.9 billion (U.S.) in funding they received throughout all of 2020 and well above the $4.3 billion (U.S.) raised in 2019 — and we still have five months left to go.
Toronto-based drug development company Deep Genomics is the latest to join the party, raising $180 million (U.S.) in a Series C round led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2, with additional backing from the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Fidelity Management and Research Co. LLC, True Ventures, Amplitude Ventures, Khosla Ventures and Magnetic Ventures.
Deep Genomics has built an artificial intelligence platform that accelerates drug development for rare genetic disorders. “Deep learning is the ultimate biotechnology: it can create the accurate, large scale, complex biological knowledge that is needed for producing highly effective therapies. It enables the discovery of therapies that would not be discovered without it — and, the more it does, the better it gets,” says Brendan Frey, Deep Genomics’ founder and CEO. “It’s increasingly believed that most medicines of the future will be created by deep learning artificial intelligence.”
The company is working toward preparing its first 10 AI-discovered drug programs for clinical trials; this new financing will help it scale its drug pipeline.
War on talent heats up
With money flowing into Canadian companies, many firms are actively recruiting. In fact, a new report from CBRE shows that Canada is flipping the narrative on the country’s traditional “brain drain” — Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are bringing in more skilled workers than they’re losing. Toronto’s numbers are particularly impressive: since 2015, the city has added more than 81,000 jobs and issued 26,000 tech degrees, giving it a net brain gain of nearly 55,000 jobs.
In recent talent news, Sweden’s Klarna, a leader in the fintech space, has begun hiring in Canada, scooping up Kristina Elkhazin, who served as Google Canada’s head of industry for retail, as its new managing director. The company is looking to secure talent quickly, as “international expansion is a top priority, and the natural North American progression will have a focus on the Canadian market,” says Brendan Lewis, U.S. Head of Communications at Klarna.
And Canadian fintech giant Wealthsimple has recruited Inovia partner Patrick Pichette to its board of directors. This announcement comes just months after Inovia helped support Wealthsimple’s $750 million (Canadian) fundraising round that valued the company at $5 billion (Canadian).
“It is Inovia’s mission to actively support founders to build enduring market-leading companies here in Canada,” says Pichette. “Having a firm’s partner joining the board of directors is a great way to do so and demonstrate the firm’s commitment to the founders’ mission and success.”
A tech partnership to develop production of bioplastics
Globally, one-third of all food that is produced — some 1.3 billion tons — is wasted each year. And that has massive repercussions on the environment, accounting for about 8 per cent of all greenhouse-gas emissions. In a newly formed partnership, two Canadian companies are pooling resources to tackle the problem head on.
With $6 million in funding from Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen), the industry-led organization behind Canada’s Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster, Genecis Bioindustries will develop its novel biotechnology platform to create bioplastic at StormFisher’s new organic waste processing facility in Drumbo, west of Kitchener.
StormFisher’s Drumbo facility is capable of processing more than 100,000 tonnes of food waste each year, working with grocery stores, restaurants, manufacturers and municipalities to make fertilizer and renewable energy. As an early-stage company, Genecis is currently manufacturing roughly one kilogram of its bioplastic per week, converting carbons from food waste into its premium compostable plastics. Access to StormFisher’s existing infrastructure will “help us get to scale cheaper and faster,” says Luna Yu, CEO of Genecis.
“As cleantech entrepreneurs ourselves, we had historically found that it can be very challenging finding an industrial partner to allow for companies to scale,” says Brandon Moffatt, owner and vice president of StormFisher. “We’re glad that we can facilitate this demonstration project.”
Building a better EV infrastructure
Are Ontario drivers ready to go electric? Automotive supply chains are being overhauled to build electric vehicles and experts predict that by 2040, EVs will make up more than half of global passenger car sales. Those vehicles, however, will need to be charged.
With a chunk of financing from Natural Resources Canada’s Green Infrastructure — Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Demonstration Program, things are moving in the right direction. Armed with $2.3 million (Canadian), Anvil Crawler Development Corporation, a sustainable energy developer, will install 36 EV chargers across Ontario. Opus One Solutions, SWTCH, Energy+ Inc. and Elexicon Energy are also supporting this initiative and will integrate technologies, such as energy distribution management software, at the different locations.
“The additional EV infrastructure will go a long way to address the ‘range anxiety’ that many drivers may be feeling when they think about the future of driving,” says Tyler Hamilton, director of ecosystem development and cleantech at MaRS. “Innovation has a huge role to play in the future of transportation, decarbonization and grid stability, so I am pleased to see Canadian startups like Opus One Solutions and SWTCH will be involved in the early planning stages.”
All chargers will be available for public use by Sept. 30, 2022, and will be installed at apartment buildings, commercial properties, retail properties and attractions across Ontario.
In other news
Cybersecurity company Arctic Wolf Networks, a unicorn with a large office in Waterloo, announced a $150 million (U.S.) Series F funding raise, giving it a valuation of $4.3 billion (U.S.) — more than triple the $1.3 billion (U.S.) valuation it reached last fall.
Miovision, a company that uses computer vision, AI and analytics to help cities modernize traffic management, acquired Arizona-based Traffop. The acquisition provides Miovision with a solution to help municipalities analyze traffic data without having to install additional hardware.
Another “unicorn” is born. Toronto password management company 1Password raised $100 million (U.S.), led by Silicon Valley venture-capital giant Accel. The new financing round has doubled the company’s valuation to $2 billion (U.S.).
Toronto-based Notch raised $10 million (U.S.), led by Accomplice and BDC with participation from MATH Venture Partners, Golden Ventures, The Yield Lab, Garage Capital and Plexo Capital. Several angel investors participated in the round, too, including prominent Canadian startup coach, adviser and investor Mark MacLeod.
North America’s largest urban innovation hub, MaRS Discovery District made Fast Company’s annual list of the 100 Best Workplaces for Innovators, alongside Google, Samsung, Mattel, IBM, General Motors and Moderna.
Amanda Whalen writes about technology for MaRS. Torstar, the parent company of the Toronto Star, has partnered with MaRS to highlight innovation in Canadian companies.
Disclaimer This content was produced as part of a partnership and therefore it may not meet the standards of impartial or independent journalism.