Canadian Startup News: Week 30/11/2020

Nov 30, 2020 | Startup News | 0 comments

Welcome to our weekly Canadian startup news segment where we bring you the most important events in the world of canadian startups. We cover all major cities in Canada, mainly Toronto, Montreal & Vancouver and other emerging startup scenes.

This was another eventful week for tech startups & business owners in Canada. Loblaw & Gatik announced a first fleet of autonomous delivery vehicule in Toronto. While Xanandu, working with the MarS Creative Destruction Lab announced Canada’s first quantum network.


Telecommunications giant Telus has announced a new $100 million corporate venture capital fund focused on investing in early-stage technology startups that aim to drive social impact.

Telus has currently invested $45 million into the Telus Pollinator Fund For Good. Telus is the fund’s only limited partner to date and a spokesperson for the company told BetaKit it is committed to providing $100 million.

The Pollinator fund’s primary focus will be on investing in startups in the seed and Series A stage.

“This $100 million investment will bring innovative and socially responsible products and services to market to address some of the most pressing social challenges facing our planet,”

“We are improving social, digital, and environmental outcomes by investing in the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.”

said Darren Entwistle, president and CEO of Telus.

Impact investing refers to investments made into companies and funds that have an intention to generate a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact, alongside a financial return. In addition to key innovation hubs in Canada, such as MaRS Discovery District, other telecom companies in Canada, such as Rogers and Bell, actively participate in impact investing.

The Pollinator fund’s primary focus will be on seed and Series A financing, with either equity, debt, or flexible financing based on the company’s needs for growth. The fund will cut cheques between approximately $500,000 to $2 million per investment and invest both in and outside of Canada.

“Our capital is catalyzed through the fund-of-fund model to create a more positive impact, and drive a faster time to market, as we’re building deal flow and building the next set of companies that we’re going to write direct investments in,”

Miller said

“We are not going to be principally a fund of funds, but we will … certainly look at the fund-of-funds against our investment pillars and to target or write investment where we see that fund having an outsized ability to drive positive social return and social impact,” Miller added.

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Palo Alto-based startup Gatik has signed a deal with Canada’s largest food retailer, Loblaw Companies Limited, to launch what it claims is the country’s first autonomous delivery fleet.

Gatik and Loblaw will deploy five box trucks outfitted with autonomous vehicle technology across fixed routes throughout the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), beginning in January 2021. The partnership expands upon a 10-month pilot that began earlier this year, which saw Gatik and Loblaw testing one delivery vehicle in Toronto.

“As more Canadians turn to online grocery shopping, we’ve looked at ways to make our supply chain more efficient.”

– Lauren Steinberg, Loblaw

Lauren Steinberg, senior vice president of Loblaw Digital, called the autonomous fleet “central” to Loblaw’s three-year growth strategy. The delivery fleet is part of a broader move by Loblaw to automate many aspects of its supply chain. Earlier this year, the retailer launched its first automated picking facility, located in Toronto.

Major retailers across the globe, including Amazon and Walmart, are also working to automate various parts of their fulfillment operations as a way to increase efficiency.

COVID-19 has made self-driving trucks and other robotic deliveries more appealing than ever, given the boom in e-commerce and greater need for social distancing caused by the pandemic.

As Canada’s largest food retailer, Loblaw has notably benefited from the e-commerce boom, with a 175 percent increase in e-commerce sales last quarter.

Gatik is a Palo Alto and Toronto-based startup, which has developed technology that automates short-haul delivery vehicles. It focuses on middle-mile delivery for the B2B retail industry. The company was founded in 2017 by CEO Gautam Narang, CTO Arjun Narang, and chief engineer Apeksha Kumavat.

Gatik’s deal with Loblaw comes on the heels of a $25 million USD Series A round, which initially closed in March with rolling closes throughout the year. Notably, the round was co-led by Loblaw-backed Wittington Ventures.

For more information:


Toronto-based quantum computing startup Xanadu, in partnership with MaRS and Creative Destruction Lab (CDL), announced this week the launch of what it claims is Canada’s first quantum network.

Canada Quantum Network (CQN) will launch three nodes, quantum processors where the applications ultimately run in Toronto, providing a quantum testbed for partner organizations to access and develop applications in quantum cryptography, communications, and computation. Construction has begun on the CQN, with initial access expected in 2021.

“Working together we can find the appropriate leverage for quantum technologies while building Canada’s leadership in quantum computing.”

Xanadu was founded in 2016, with a mission of using photons, or particles of light, to perform exceptionally fast and complex computations at room temperature. In September, it released a publicly available photonic quantum cloud platform called the Xanadu Quantum Cloud.

“We believe that deploying a quantum network in Canada with a collaborative set of Canadian partners will jumpstart both innovation and economic development in the emerging field of quantum technology. Our initial partners, MaRS and Creative Destruction Lab, will support entrepreneurs in developing new kinds of applications on the Canada Quantum Network,” said Christian Weedbrook, Xanadu founder and CEO. “Working together we can find the appropriate leverage for quantum technologies while building Canada’s leadership in quantum computing.”

In May 2018, Xanadu raised a $9 million Seed round from Golden Ventures and Real Ventures in order to build out its technology. In July 2019, Xanadu raised an additional $32 million Series A round led by OMERS Ventures towards its cloud platform. In October, the company also became one of the 24 founding members of Quantum Industry Canada, a new industry association created with a goal of ensuring that Canada remains a global leader in the quantum industry based on years of public investment into scientific research.

In 2019, the National Research Council of Canada identified quantum technology as a $142.4 billion opportunity that could employ 229,000 Canadians by 2040. Canada is ranked first in per capita spending in quantum research and development, with over $1 billion invested since 2005.

The CQN’s possible applications include quantum secure communication, quantum sensing, and distributed quantum computing. Xanadu, MaRS, and CDL claim these applications could translate to unhackable elections, secure financial transactions, and increased national security for government, law enforcement, and the military.

MaRS Discovery District supports over 1,400 Canadian science and technology companies and its Toronto location is considered North America’s largest urban innovation hub. In July, it launched Momentum, a program designed to support high-growth Canadian companies with the potential to reach $100 million in revenue in the next five years. In September, MaRS entered talks with the University of Calgary on the potential of bringing an innovation hub to Western Canada.

“The development of quantum computers is accelerating and quantum networks are required to take advantage of quantum computers,”

“The creation of the CQN allows Canada to retain and grow the talent pool for quantum applications and is an important cornerstone in the development of the next big industry in Canada.”

said Yung Wu, CEO of MaRS.

“The first phase of the CQN in Toronto is the stepping stone towards the long term vision of a nation-wide quantum internet across Canada,” said Sonia Sennik, executive director at CDL. “We are thrilled to participate in the availability of a test bed quantum network which will enable adoption of quantum technologies, generate new ventures and enable sustainable research to build companies.

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According to the federal government’s fall economic statement, the national deficit is expected to reach $381 billion for the current fiscal year with a proposed $100 billion in stimulus spending over the next three years.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland tabled the fiscal update in the House of Commons Monday. The update, which was first committed to in the September throne speech, included a summary of the cost of pandemic-related aid, as well as the government’s plan to revive the economy amid the second wave of COVID-19 cases.

Freeland noted the federal government has spent $322 billion in direct measures to fight the virus and support Canadians, the largest federal economic support package since World War II.

This is the second time the federal government has provided economic numbers this year, after the Liberals cancelled plans to release a federal budget in March. In July, now-former finance minister Bill Morneau tabled an economic and fiscal “snapshot,” which at the time projected a $343.2 billion deficit for the current fiscal year.

The deficit projected by the Liberal government in July did not account for a number of new costs associated with promises the government made in the weeks and months following. Since the July projection, the estimated federal deficit has grown by approximately 10 percent.

Rent Subsidy

Since July, the federal government has made several changes to existing economic support programs and expanded others. Earlier this month, the new CERS, meant to announce a previous commercial rent subsidy program, was signed into law.

The CERS replaced the previous rent program, the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA), which has been described by many, including the president of the lobbying group Save Small Business, as a failure.

In addition to the $2.18 billion originally earmarked for the CERS, the federal government expects to now spend an additional $2.18 billion on the program.

Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

As part of the November legislation to introduce the CERS, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) was also extended to June 2021. The government claimed it has made $50 billion in payments since launching.

In its economic statement, the federal government is proposing to increase the maximum subsidy rate back to 75 percent for the period beginning December 20, 2020, and to extend this rate until March 13, 2021.

This, the government said, would provide greater certainty to employers during the pandemic. The increase to the CEWS is expected to cost the government around $14.8 billion.

Additional measures related to business and tech sector

The federal government also proposed $250 million to the Strategic Innovation Fund over five years. This additional funding is aimed to help intellectual property-rich firms have the support they need to face the challenges presented by COVID-19.

Also included in the statement are possible changes to the way stock options will be taxed. A $200,000 annual limit will apply to employee stock option grants that can qualify for the employee stock option deduction. The new cap will be based on the fair market value of shares underlying the stock options, at the time these options are granted.

“You can’t tax your way to prosperity, so it’s good to see the government has listened to the leaders of Canada’s high-growth tech sector and understands that stock options are used for talent attraction and retention, and should be kept as competitive as possible,”

said Benjamin Bergen, executive director of the Council of Canadian Innovators.

The government also proposed to implement a tax on corporations providing digital services that would take effect from January 1, 2022. The government said this would increase the government’s revenues by $3.4 billion over five years, starting in 2021-22. Further details on the tax are set to be revealed in Budget 2021.

Stay tuned for weekly updates and the latest news from the world of Canadian start-ups.

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