AC Grad Nicoya takes top honour at Communitech Rev Centre Stage

With Silicon Valley ‘godfather’ Steve Blank looking on as a judge, Nicoya Lifesciences pitched its way to a $50,000 prize on Friday night, as the new Communitech Rev sales accelerator graduated its first cohort.

Two other companies among six who pitched, Bridgit and PiinPoint, took home $25,000 each from the Communitech Rev Centre Stage pitch event, in which Blank – creator of the Lean Startup movement and a leading thinker on how build scalable companies – posed some penetrating questions.

His queries, which often focused on specific business metrics, caught a few founders flat-footed, adding tension to the proceedings and leaving any math-challenged audience members scratching their heads.

Nicoya’s technology, which incorporates nanotechnology, biochemistry and optical sensors, makes particular types of scientific testing easier and quicker. It also promises to radically reduce the cost of certain medical tests.

Blank – who judged the pitches along with Carol Leaman, CEO of Waterloo-based Axonify, and Alec Saunders, Microsoft’s Principal Technical Evangelist in Canada – has written previously on the potential for significant disruption in medical research.

The judges also awarded Bridgit, a communication platform for construction projects, and PiinPoint, whose software helps retail businesses choose the best locations to open outlets.

The honour capped a particularly strong week for Bridgit co-founder Mallorie Brodie, who just three days earlier had pitched at the C100’s inaugural Venture North event in Toronto and won $15,000 for the company. Bridgit was among seven startups from the Toronto-Waterloo corridor who competed before a panel of Silicon Valley investors that included Ajay Royan of Mithril Capital Management.

Also pitching at Centre Stage were Blitzen, whose process automation software targets businesses; Set Scouter, a platform for connecting film producers with shooting locations; and Aterlo Networks, which helps online television viewers in less-populated areas to overcome limited Internet service. Communitech corporate partners Deloitte and Christie sponsored the event.

Given Rev’s focus on building scale and getting companies to $100 million in annual revenue as quickly as possible, all the companies detailed how they planned to reach significant revenue milestones.

Clearpath Announces Shift Into Self-Driving Vehicles For Industry

Canadian robotics manufacturer releases new warehouse robot with GE Ventures as strategic investor and GE as first customer.

(Kitchener, ON, Canada – September 23, 2015)  Clearpath Robotics, a global leader in field and service robotics, today announced its first self-driving warehouse robot: OTTO. The announcement was made at RoboBusiness 2015 in San Jose, California. OTTO is designed for intelligent heavy-load transport in industrial environments and delivers improved throughput and decreased operating costs.

Introducing OTTO – The Self-Driving Vehicle for Heavy-Load Transport

Modern factories and warehouses need to be reconfigurable, responsive, and efficient to survive. Designed to address these conditions, OTTO uses the same underlying self-driving technology popularized by the Google self-driving car.  The system delivers dynamic and efficient transport in increasingly congested industrial operations.  Traditional material handling systems require costly and rigid changes to infrastructure, cannot adapt to a changing environment, and are not safe for collaboration with warehouse personnel.  OTTO does not rely on external infrastructure for navigation, making implementation hassle-free and highly scalable.  It can transport 3300 lb loads at speeds up to 4.5 mph, while tracking along optimal paths and safely avoiding collisions.


“North American manufacturers are constantly under pressure to find new ways to gain an edge against low-cost offshore competition. Traditional automation is saturating.  But what about the more complex tasks too difficult or expensive to automate?” said Matt Rendall, CEO and Co-Founder of Clearpath Robotics.  “We created OTTO to reinvent material transport and give North American manufacturers a new edge.”

Applications for OTTO include moving pallets in a warehouse or cross-dock, and for kitting or assembly line delivery.  OTTO units are currently deployed in five test facilities, the first of which belonging to GE.

Partnership with GE

GE has collaborated with Clearpath on service robot development since 2013 and recently became one of Clearpath’s first OTTO customers.  Today Clearpath also announced GE Ventures has become a strategic investor in the company for an undisclosed sum.

“We believe robotics will drastically improve the industries that GE serves,” said Ralph Taylor-Smith, Managing Director of GE Ventures.  “We look forward to further partnering with Clearpath and exploring the role large-scale service robots may play for us and for our customers in the future. This Clearpath investment from GE reflects a deepening of the industrial partnership in advanced manufacturing and field service operations with self-driving vehicles and service robots.”

“GE is one of the world’s most powerful and innovative brands,” said Rendall. “We are honored to partner with GE and we look forward to shaping the industry with them.”

A video of OTTO and a webinar invitation to learn more about the technology is available here:

About Clearpath Robotics

Clearpath Robotics Inc. develops self-driving vehicles for industry. The company provides hardware, software and services to enable self-driving vehicle development, deployment and fleet operation. Clearpath works with over 500 of the world’s most innovative brands in over 40 countries, serving markets that span manufacturing, logistics, mining, agriculture, aerospace and defence. Clearpath is an award-winning company with recent awards, including Robotics Business Review Top 50 Company, Edison Award for Innovation, Business Insider Top 40 under 40, and Canada’s Top 100 Employers. Visit Clearpath Robotics at

Kik adds executives: plans to double workforce

Waterloo-based Kik announced two all-star additions to its executive lineup today.


Jae Kim, former head of strategy and operations at the U.S. headquarters of Line, the Japanese messaging, will manage Kik’s growing U.S. operations and the roll-out of services on its popular mobile messaging platform. He will be based in Los Angeles.

Alim Dhanji, tasked with scaling Kik’s workforce and culture, will assume the role of Chief People Officer, based in Waterloo.

“What really drew me and the rest of the team to them was the fact that they were great culture fits – humble, hardworking and team players – which is extremely hard to find when hiring for senior roles,” Ted Livingston, Kik’s CEO, said in a news release.

Kik’s recent raise of $50 million from Tencent, the holding company of China’s WeChat, created a need for new high-level executive roles to advance the company, now valued at more than $1 billion, to the next stage.

Doubling Kik’s workforce from the current 110 in the next year will be quite the job, but Dhanji sounds ready to take it on.

“My experiences have really been about scaling an organization, both organically and through mergers and acquisitions, and working with leadership teams to build the right capabilities within the organizations,” Dhanji told Communitech News. He has held senior executive roles at Citigroup and KPMG, and most recently was a senior vice-president at TD Bank Group.

Scaling culture is a stumbling block for many high-growth companies as they transition from startup to full-fledged company.

“Our emphasis is on making sure we continue to foster collaboration and communication in all our offices,” Dhanji said.

Some tactics include HR programs that “help unify our culture” and the continuation of Friday standup meetings, which connect all Kik offices via video conferencing, but Dhanji said it ultimately comes back to recruitment.

“We’re a knowledge-worker organization; we don’t produce widgets that you can get on a shelf, and so for us it’s really about finding the best talent and finding talent that fits within our culture,” he said, adding that people are a competitive advantage.

And Waterloo Region is a great first stop for talent.

“Waterloo continues to be a really core area to attract the best talent,” he said. “We have just been enjoying exceptional talent from the university, but also Waterloo [Region in general], given that it is a hub for tech talent.”

Kik will be looking elsewhere as it rounds out its teams in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Although Dhanji has his work cut out for him, he’s looking forward to the new opportunity.

“It’s really a compelling product and it’s exciting the potential that Kik has to accomplish in the West what WeChat has accomplished in the East.”

Magnet Fornensics Welcomes New Vice President and General Manager

AC Graduates Magnet Forensics announced Neil Condon (right) as the new Vice President and General Manager, Magnet Forensics USA. “I’m thrilled to have Neil on the executive team to help us accomplish our mission of impacting people’s lives by uncovering the truth and empowering others to make a difference”, said Adam Belsher, CEO at Magnet Forensics. “Neil is passionate about serving the law enforcement community by bringing them innovative digital forensics solutions to help them combat both traditional and cybercrimes that impact society.”


Neil has over 25 years of experience in information technology. For the past 10 years, he has worked for digital forensics companies in federal government-facing roles. In his most recent position at Nuix, Neil was responsible for designing and implementing the US public sector strategy. His experience also includes similar roles at AccessData and Guidance Software, where he was responsible for a number of departments, including sales, marketing, field technical services, quality assurance, and software products for the US government. During his time at Juniper Networks, Neil was a civilian advisor to the Office of Cyber Security & Communications within the United States Department of Homeland Security, and served as a member of the Industry Executive Subcommittee for the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Council (NSTAC).

“It’s great to be part of an innovative organization like Magnet Forensics”, said Neil Condon. “I look forward to working alongside our customers to help them accomplish their missions.”

Sober Steering named as Top Ten Startup of the New Automotive Industry

AC Client, and soon to be Graduate, Sober Steering was named one of the Top Ten Startups of the New Automotive Industry today by the LA Auto Show’s Connected Car Expo Advisory Board.

Sober Steering, the world’s only touch based alcohol interlock, has developed groundbreaking technology to prevent drunk driving. Its sensors, inserted directly into a steering wheel of a vehicle, have proven that alcohol can be detected at the palm of the hand in less than five minutes after initial ingestion. If alcohol is detected above a preset limit, the vehicle is immobilized. Random retests ensure the driver maintains sobriety while en route. Its Zero Tolerance System is designed for fleets like school buses, coaches, hazmat, and construction vehicles.

Sober Steering is set to Graduate from the Accelerator program at the AC Client Showcase this week.

Also named as a Top Ten startup were:

  • Driversiti
  • Capio
  • Elio Motors
  • Getaround
  • High Mobility
  • HopSkipDrive
  • Nebula Sytems
  • TriLumina
  • Quanergy

Kik’s new QR codes can do more than just add friends

Even though QR codes never really took off in the United States, they’re overwhelmingly popular in Asia.

kiksMessaging apps like Snapchat have made them ‘cool’ again and Kik wants a piece of the action.

Today it’s announcing Kik codes, which are a new way to add friends, get straight into group conversations and talk to brands.

Kik’s new codes can be scanned by quickly pulling down on the friends list in the app, which opens the built-in scanner — when you add someone using their code, they automatically add you back too.

It’s even more useful for getting you straight into a group conversation without the hassle of needing to be added by someone else. All you need to do is scan the code and you’re in.

Those QR codes are smarter than most, though, when it comes to working with businesses.

Each code can have data embedded in it, such as the location it was scanned at, which is passed along to the business at the other end. That allows a bot to quickly message the person back with a relevant deal, like a pizza coupon, based on their location.

Businesses can customize the data stored in each code, but Kik codes can’t be visually customized like Snapchat’s because the company believes they need to be recognizable and functional before it explores that.

The company announced earlier this year that it has 200 million active users but has now grown to 240 million and more than half a billion messages have been sent to bots. These new QR codes are an enticing way to extend that network further.

Kik codes are available today in the company’s updated apps.

Digital Governance Group launches TowneCrier

DGNAC Momentum client Digital Governance Group announced today the release of TowneCrier, their flagship political engagement tool.

TowneCrier has been created for the voters, candidates, the Parties, and the Third Parties in the current election and after. Their platform aims to give these groups an effective polling tool.

Instead of leveraging telephone polls, TowneCrier sends an email or mobile notification directly to the voters of a specified riding. They decide how to rate, when to respond and have the time to evaluate the poll beforehand. These ratings are returned in real time and can include Big Data Analytics. is a platform that does the opposite of “Ye Olde Towne Crier”. That Towne Crier told people what the King’s wishes were, this TowneCrier informs the candidates and party of the values and the wishes of the voters.

Learn more at