As we near the end of 2020, it’s only fitting to publish a good, old-fashioned year-in-review series. We’ll recap some of Waterloo’s top news stories, our appearance in several prominent 2020 reports and highlight some of our favourite original stories from the year.
Communities everywhere experienced a year full of unique challenges. As our city streets quieted down and everyone focused on keeping themselves and their families safe, Waterloo companies continued to grow and succeed. Despite COVID-19, 2020 was a year of breaking news and headlines highlighting continued investment and innovation in Waterloo.
From large multi-national expansions and new unicorns, to the making of a PPE manufacturing powerhouse – narrowing this list to just twelve entries wasn’t easy!
Here are our top 12 business news stories from 2020, a year like no other:
1. Google announces big expansion of its Canadian operations
An exciting kick-off to 2020, Google announced plans for a significant new expansion in Waterloo, bringing the local workforce to 3,000 people. The company also announced the launch of Canada’s first Google for Startups Accelerator right here in Waterloo.
2. Waterloo-based unicorn Faire doubles valuation to $2.5 billion
In 2019, retail innovator Faire announced $150 million in new funding and a valuation of $1 billion. In 2020 the company expanded their Waterloo footprint and raised an additional $170 million, increasing its valuation to $2.5 billion. Faire has been instrumental in helping many small businesses adapt throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
3. The making of a PPE manufacturing powerhouse
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Waterloo had limited personal protective equipment manufacturing capacity. Today, at least 90 different operations in Waterloo manufacture everything from N95 respirators to syringes. Waterloo’s problem-solving culture ideally positioned companies to take on COVID-19.
4. ApplyBoard secures $100M raise and ‘unicorn’ valuation
In May, ApplyBoard – the world’s largest platform for international student recruitment – announced a raise of $100 million in Series C funding on a $2 billion valuation. Since then, the company has raised an additional $70 million as a Series C extension. ApplyBoard is a true “Made in Waterloo” story, having touched upon almost every part of the Waterloo business support network.
5. Federal government orders 10 million face shields from Waterloo’s InkSmith
In late March, InkSmith was an education programming company with nine employees. Thirty-four days later and with 100+ new employees on board, Canadian Shield – now an InkSmith-affiliated advanced manufacturing company – received an order from the federal government for 10 million of its reusable face shields.
6. Arctic Wolf raises $200M to become Waterloo’s latest unicorn
The year of the unicorn. In October, cybersecurity innovator Arctic Wolf announced an extraordinary $200 million in Series E funding at a $1.3 billion valuation. The company has had a location in Waterloo since day one and has substantial future growth plans, with Waterloo remaining the primary engineering hub.
7. How Waterloo Region companies are helping during COVID-19
Waterloo Region is a community of problem solvers. From helping companies abruptly switch to remote work and keeping Canadians informed to developing new manufacturing lines for PPE production, 50+ local companies helped communities and organizations near and far cope with COVID-19.
8. The University of Waterloo to launch new $35 million medtech innovation centre
COVID-19 has shown the world that medtech innovation is more important than ever before. The University of Waterloo announced plans to launch an innovation centre that will focus on health innovation and medical technology. With plans to open in 2023, the centre will join Waterloo’s bustling Innovation District.
9. Communitech partnership lands $57 million to digitize business
In June, Waterloo-based Communitech helped deliver a new $57 million program to help Ontario businesses digitize their operations as part of the Digital Main Street initiative. The program aimed to support 5,200 small and medium-sized businesses and created more than 700 jobs for co-operative education students.
10. OTTO Motors secures US$29 million in new funding
In June, OTTO Motors, the developers of autonomous mobile robots, raised an impressive US$29 million in Series C funding to expand their global network and invest in their core technologies. With physical distancing implications brought on by COVID-19, autonomous robots are a promising solution for manufacturers.
11. Tech innovator IMS announces big growth plans in Waterloo
IMS, a Trak Global Group company and a leader in insurance telematics and mobility services, announced plans to double its workforce in Waterloo by the end of 2021. As driving behaviour changed due to COVID-19, demand for the company’s usage-based insurance and fleet managment solutions soared.
12. Canada and the UK strike a post-Brexit deal
While not a “Waterloo” story, the signing of an interim trade deal between Canada and the United Kingdom is certainly big news for companies looking to maintain market access with the world’s 5th largest economy. The Canada-United Kingdom Trade Continuity Agreement, beginning in January 2021, will extend trade between the two countries once the UK leaves the European Union. It replaces the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which gives Canadian businesses access to the European Union.