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Waterloo Region Tech Roundup for July

Jay Shah, Director, Velocity

Photo: Jay Shah brings his experience as BufferBox co-founder and Google product manager to his new role at Velocity. (Photo courtesy of Jay Shah)

Brain gain

There’s been much discussion in recent months about foreign multinationals gobbling up Canadian tech talent. Less discussed are cases when the traffic moves the other way. That happened this week, when the University of Waterloo announced that Jay Shah – a UW mechatronics grad, BufferBox co-founder and current product manager at Google – will return as Director of UW’s acclaimed Velocity program for student-led startups. Shah, a Velocity alum himself, brings both startup chops and global-level experience to the role, a true brain gain for Canada’s innovation ecosystem.

With talent challenges at the forefront of Canadian tech discourse, a lot of people are working hard to ensure expats – particularly the thousands working in Silicon Valley – are kept apprised of the growth in opportunities back home. Fresh from a visit to the Valley, Communitech’s Phil Froklage reflected on his conversations with Canadians about what they missed, and the factors likely to bring them back.

Room to grow

Those who return to Waterloo Region will find more space devoted to tech activity, including at the Communitech Hub, whose expanded facilities received a $1.2-million investment from the Ontario government. That announcement followed word that a former police station in Uptown Waterloo will be transformed into the Communitech Data Hub, where startups, mid-sized companies and large enterprises will collaborate around big data and the Internet of Things.

July also brought word that the Open Sky Incubator would open in an industrial complex on Ardelt Place in Kitchener, with 15,000 square feet of space and programming for early-stage tech companies.

Stellar results

Speaking of open skies and space, Waterloo’s P&P Optica had a big reason to celebrate as a SpaceX rocket successfully carried one of the company’s spectrometers to the International Space Station. The mission followed a disastrous first attempt last year, which ended when the rocket blew up two minutes after liftoff.

Angels, meanwhile, raised the altitude on their investment activities in Canada last year, especially in the category of follow-on funding, according to a report from the National Angel Capital Organization.

Down to Earth

Back on terra firma, MappedIn – whose CEO, Hongwei Liu, we featured earlier this year – relaunched its indoor mapping and navigation platform to provide visitors with more up-to-date information as they move throughout shopping malls.

And, while we all wait for fast and frequent rail service between Waterloo Region and Toronto, RideCo has launched a ride-sharing service along Highway 401 to allow travellers to get some work done during their commute.

Of course, it’ll take more than roads, rails and bridges to equip Canada to compete in the 21st century economy. Magnet Forensics CEO Adam Belsher, recently the subject of a lengthy Q+A with Communitech News, argued in a Globe and Mail op-ed that governments should look to strategic partnerships with and procurement from Canadian innovators to build the infrastructure of the future.

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The Communitech News team uses Canon equipment for photography and video.