A crisis can bring out the best in humanity.
While the world battled with COVID-19, as everyone focused on keeping themselves and their families safe and healthy, communities are came together like never before.
In Waterloo Region, we pride ourselves on an outsized ability to solve problems. It’s in our DNA.
This focus on solving problems is evident in the actions of our civic leaders, who are came together – along with Waterloo EDC’s leadership – to ensure some degree of economic stability and continuity in our community. It’s also present in the working group of tech leaders who coordinated with each other and the local health authorities to supply much-needed resources.
Individual businesses and organizations also did what they could on the local, national and international stages. They applyed their expertise and transformed their products/services to help local health authorities with shortages, assist companies around the world with telecommuting and simply keep people informed.
This is a community of problems solvers. Here’s our list of local companies and organizations that helped Waterloo and the world cope with COVID-19:
A talent startup that specializes in helping young job seekers find employment, JobJunxion is ideally suited to helping students and new graduates find employment in a challenging post-COVID environment. To address the problem, the company launched a Technology Boot Camp to help prepare graduates for entry-level positions. In the first half of the 12-week program, students worked with the JobJunxion team to hone fundamental coding skills while helping with resumes and interview skills. The second half was an on-site placement with an organization that needs coding help.
An industry-leading manufacturer and supplier of sampling and testing equipment, Systems Plus has 35+ years experience providing high-quality products used for health, food safety and water testing, as well as environmental and agricultural sampling. With the need for bottled disinfectant increasing, the company pivoted to help get disinfectant supplies into the hands of health care workers – they donated 1,700+ bottles. Read about them in the New Hamburg Independent.
Medical Innovation Xchange
Canada’s first industry-led medtech hub, the Medical Innovation Xchange (MIX) is well-equipped to help companies innovate and adapt to new business opportunities. To help with the fight against COVID-19, the hub collaborated with the Government of Ontario to offer advisory services to those non-medical manufacturers tasked with filling orders for medical supplies. Read about MIX in Kitchener Today.
Vertical Interiors by McIntyre
A company that specializes in building custom corporate interiors, Vertical Interiors by McIntyre sees a key role for furniture manufacturers and suppliers in ensuring that – as restrictions are lifted – workplaces are safe. To fight COVID-19 and ensure workplaces are virus-free, the company is partnering with Protect Technologies to apply a Health Canada-approved, environmentally friendly and non-toxic anti-microbial spray that remains active for 12 months.
Day Dreamer Accessories
A new company that specializes in eco-friendly accessories, Day Dreamer paused the launch of their initial product offering due to COVID-19. Instead, the company has pivoted to offer The Dream Mask, a non-medical reuseable cloth face mask made from Repreve, which is one of the most certified, earth-friendly fibres available. A portion of each sale is also donated to the Canadian Mental Health Association and you can donate to the company in order to provide Dream Masks for those who cannot afford personal protection.
An innovator that aims to make blood donation a thing of the past, Membio reduces the need to rely on blood donation by manufacturing fully functional red blood cells. To help fight COVID-19, the company adapted its technology to enable the rapid, cost-effective scaling of a high-quality vaccine. Read more on Velocity’s round-up of eight of the incubator’s companies that are helping during COVID.
Part of the Velocity Incubator program, Pi&Power is working on developing RF waveform-based sensor technology to rapidly detect and identify pathogens. Read more on Velocity’s round-up of eight of the incubator’s companies that helped during COVID.
Developing an at-home test kit for COVID-19 as an answer to the current pandemic, Serapis Labs worked to achieve what normally takes months in the medical space within a week. Their solution was able to detect novel coronavirus at levels comparable to existing lab tests. Read more on Velocity’s round-up of eight of the incubator’s companies that helped during COVID.
A company that designs and develops specialized and safe immunotherapeutics, Theraphage is working toward a future where infectious diseases are prevented and cancers are cured. The company is currently working with researchers from the University of Waterloo to develop a vaccine that can be administered intranasally. Read more on Velocity’s round-up of eight of the incubator’s companies that helped during COVID.
A company that prides itself on developing robots capable of working in some of the most inhospitable environments on Earth, Deep Trekker made its name with underwater drones. Realizing that COVID-19 would create dangerous environments in the most mundane spaces – workplaces and airplanes, for example – the company began developing new robots that can spray disinfectant or use UV light to eradicate coronavirus. Read more in a feature article from the Waterloo Region Record. Read our Q&A with CEO Sam Macdonald to learn more about Deep Trekker.
A nanotechnology company that uses proprietary ink to print invisible identifiers on products, Arylla’s product offers new types of customer experiences, helps fight counterfeiting and improves traceability. To help during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company is retooling their production line to create filtration media for N95 masks and worked with manufacturing partners to help deliver 4 million masks per month to frontline healthcare workers. Read more on Velocity’s round-up of eight of the incubator’s companies that helped during COVID.
Avro Life Science
Developers of a technology for the passive delivery of medications, Avro Life Science’s transdermal patch can hold and deliver a wide range of drugs over a 1-7 day timespan. With their unique expertise on drug delivery, the company developed a transdermal patch program that could be prototyped and trialed in time for treating the 2nd and 3rd waves of COVID-19 (when a suitable therapeutic candidate is identified). Read more on Velocity’s round-up of eight of the incubator’s companies that helped during COVID.
A company that provides an AI-driven medical supplies delivery platform, DG-OD applied its technology to streamline the supply chain and logistics management processes to help address the supply chain shortcomings exposed by COVID-19. Read more on Velocity’s round-up of eight of the incubator’s companies that helped during COVID.
Life Sciences Key Technologies
The innovators behind a product that enables decentralized lab capacity, Life Sciences Key Technologies can conduct traditionally lab-based tests – those that are usually done in clinical and research laboratories – outside of the lab. The company worked to boost COVID-19 testing capacity with devices that can each run 1,200 patient tests per day. Read more on Velocity’s round-up of eight of the incubator’s companies that are helping during COVID.
An Internet-of-Things (IoT) company that helps to build intelligent buildings and cities, eleven-x excels at collecting data from “things” that could not be connected previously, which has led to a unique response to the COVID-19 crisis. The company has put together a suite of sensor solutions aimed at facilitating a safe environment as we return to office spaces – helping to ensure we minimize factors that lead to the spread of coronavirus. The company also used their 3D printers to help produce PPE for frontline healthcare workers and set up a program to solicit donations for The Food Bank of Waterloo Region.
A manufacturer of acoustical and thermal attenuation components, Swift Components works with Tier 1 suppliers to support the development of new products and contract manufacturing of production components. To help fight COVID-19, they developed an intubation shield to protect physicians from potential exposure to aerosol particles released during intubation.
An infection prevention technology innovator, Prescientx has extensive expertise and experience in the creation of ultraviolet disinfections systems. To help fight COVID-19, the company built a portable conveyor-style system for disinfecting N95 face masks – 500 every hour – using UV technology.
A general contracting firm specializing in commercial building construction and land development, Gateman-Milloy’s portfolio includes some well-known Waterloo Region developments, including The Boardwalk, Innisfree House, the Wilfrid Laurier University Pool and Wildcraft Grill Bar. Through one of their affiliate businesses, Gateman-Milloy provided hundreds of free packaged lunches each week to local frontline health workers to show support for their dedication and selfless work.
A family-owned Canadian company based in Waterloo Region, Dare Foods has produced delicious crackers, candy, cookies and more, for decades. As many families faced food security issues during the COVID-19 crisis, the role of food banks has become more important than ever. Dare stepped up in a big way, donating 100,000 boxes of Bear Paw Cookies to Food Banks Canada.
The anchor tenant in Canada’s first industry-led medtech hub and one of Canada’s fastest-growing tech companies, Intellijoint Surgical’s product provides real-time measurements and information to assist surgeons with knee and hip procedures. The company made a generous donation of iPads to Waterloo Region’s Grand River Hospital to help patients, who are dealing with uncertainty and physical distance from family and friends, maintain connections during the pandemic.
3D Prototype Design Inc.
A long-time part of the Waterloo Region manufacturing and design ecosystem, 3D Prototype Design’s unique skillset – the fast prototyping of new 3D printed products for a wide variety of applications – is exceptionally important during the COVID-19 crisis. To help maximize the use of 3D printing and get PPE face shields into use quickly, the company invented Clip19 – a pair of 3D printed clips that attach directly to existing glasses to transform them into a non-medical PPE face shield. Read coverage from the Waterloo Region Record.
One of Waterloo Region’s most successful global companies, ATS Automation Tooling Systems builds automation systems for use in a wide variety of applications, including food and consumer products, transportation, energy and more. During the pandemic, the company began to produce filtering face respirators (FFR), ventilator components, COVID-19 test kits and more.
A Waterloo Region business that offers a wide variety of “fitness for duty” services including alcohol and drug testing, supervisor training and more, DriverCheck excels at identifying and addressing medical/behavioural issues. The company offered a ton of free resources to help companies address the issue of COVID-19 testing, including decision trees, a screening questionnaire, information about PPE use and guidelines for physical distancing. They also offered low-cost webinars on managing COVID-19 in the workplace and a full suite of services to help businesses adjust to new staffing and policy requirements.
A cybersecurity company that invented its own segment known as managed detection and response (MDR), eSentire recently announced a $47 million investment in their operations and plans to relocate within the community to accommodate rapid expansion plans. The company offered free resources on securing a remote workforce, maintaining cybersecurity standards during a crisis and more. They’ve also donated a huge amount of office furniture to InkSmith – the company that recently went from edtech to manufacturing 50,000 PPE face shields per day in just two weeks.
A company that designs and manufactures the components that give automotive interiors their character, Mitchell Plastics has decades of experience creating high-quality products. In a public address, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that, with the help of the Automotive Parts and Manufacturers Association, Mitchell Plastics committed to manufacturing and donating 400,000 PPE face shields.
Computer engineers, programmers and entrepreneurs from within Waterloo Region and across Canada have developed a free website to help Canadians determine which government aid programs they may qualify for in response to COVID-19. Read more about the site, coronasupport.ca and its creators in this article from the Waterloo Region Record.
A leading supplier of custom automated manufacturing equipment for life sciences, energy, transportation and more, Eclipse Automation knows how to develop new manufacturing lines on a tight timeframe. Shortly after the pandemic began, the company announced a new partnership with Harmontronics Automation in China to manufacture, sell, distribute, service, commission and modify a fully-automated N95 respirator mask production line system throughout North America, in addition to setting up a production line in Waterloo Region.
An industry leader in food, beverage and personal health care industries, Tri-Mach Group provides full-service, multi-trade solutions to manufacturers looking to upgrade facilities while observing the strict regulations found in food processing. Applying this expertise, Tri-Mach has produced sanitary PPE barriers to provide a protective shield for front-line employees, keeping them separated from customers or other employees. The company helped design custom barriers for any application.
Blending multiple Internet connections to deliver the fast and dependable connectivity required for cloud computing, online collaboration and the secure exchange of video and data, Dejero’s product is an important part of keeping the world connected during a crisis like COVID-19. The company is offering complimentary access to its LivePlus mobile app, which helps news organizations broadcast high-quality live video without expensive new technology. The company also created a database that allows news organizations to find Dejero-connected coronavirus-related experts, is assisting public safety agencies with the deployment of emergency connectivity and offering a reliable back-up connectivity solution in the event of a service interruption. For more information, read this excellent story from Communitech.
When we published our day-by-day breakdown of InkSmith’s epic 9-day pivot, a full two days were focused on a temporary structure the company had added for use as a sanitation facility. As it turns out, that structure was donated by Tridome Structures Ltd., which completed the build within 48 hours! The company also developed quick-build isolation tents.
A retail innovator that raised $150 million and achieved a $1 billion valuation in 2019, Faire’s business is to help retailers find unique and exciting products from thousands of makers all in one place. In an effort to provide meaningful support and information at an uncertain time, Faire created a calculator for understanding the potential impact of COVID-19 on a business and a collection of resources to help businesses take action.
A tech company that makes it easy for businesses to focus on growing their revenue, FunnelCake has expertise and products to help companies weather the COVID-19 storm. As a result, the company offered a free e-book – “Managing RevOps in a Crisis” – and free access to their Sales Rep Grader tool.
Artshine is an innovative mobile company that offers art programs for all ages, taught in small classes by qualified teachers and artists, as well as the “Artshine in a Box” subscription service. They’re also a social enterprise, with profits invested into Arts4All, a non-profit initiative providing an arts experience for at-risk and underprivileged individuals. Knowing that it’s harder than ever for children and adults to access opportunities to explore our artistic side during the pandemic, Artshine offered free tutorials on YouTube.
Experts in the mission-critical function of decision-making, Powernoodle’s platform helps busy and distributed teams meaningfully engage and come to quality decisions. In response to the new shared reality of physical isolation and remote work, Powernoodle and one of their partners from Silicon Valley recently held a webinar to help organizations who suddenly find their people scattered but are simultaneously in need of making good group decisions; something more important than ever.
Education innovators who created a well-known learning management system for classrooms, campuses and corporations, D2L offers the tools to make the transition of remote learning simple. In response to COVID-19, the company put together a free course capturing scientific, social and economic perspectives on the pandemic, and developed a new “care package” program for helping schools, institutions and companies rapidly adopt a new learning platform.
An artificial intelligence startup that has already grabbed headlines for its work with Audi, DarwinAI is seeking alternate methods to test patients for COVID-19. Working with researchers from the University of Waterloo, the DarwinAI team developed a neural network that can detect COVID-19 from x-rays to augment swab tests, which were in short supply.
Only 5% of public sector procurement is done remotely, which means the push to work from home is putting unprecedented pressure on public procurement teams. Bonfire provided free access to their Strategic Sourcing platform – which digitizes the entire procurement workflow – in order to help the transition to remote procurement take place as seamlessly as possible.
A software company that offers a modern learning solution for frontline employees, Axonify created free content to help organizations like Longo’s, Loblaw and M&M Food Markets rapidly train their workforces on preventative habits during a pandemic. They’re also asking people to shine a spotlight on great frontline employees by nominating them as a “frontline hero.”
Innocente Brewing Company
A microbrewery with roots in Edinburgh, Innocente Brewing Company has joined the chorus of brewers and distillers shifting some of their production capacity to hand sanitizer. Known for libations with clever names like the “Pils-Sinner” and “The Way It Gose,” the sanitizer is no different, bearing the moniker “Inno-sani.”
A leader in video marketing and sales, Vidyard’s world-class expertise has led to partnerships with marketing platform giants like HubSpot. Just as much of North America was shifting to work-from-home, the company announced that it would provide free access to their new secure video messaging solution, Vidyard for Internal Communications, to help teams stay connected and productive.
As COVID-19 concerns descended on Waterloo Region, Trusscore – a local sustainable building material company – began prototyping large panels that create more physical separation between people in hospital emergency departments. After a quick trial with local hospitals, the company started manufacturing the moveable walls on a larger scale and shipping them to hospitals across Canada. Their efforts attracted kudos from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in one of his daily press briefings.
Provider of digital versions of flyers from many of Canada’s top brands, reebee is always free for consumers. With the uncertainty in retail – from changing store hours to closures and sanitation procedures – reebee leveraged its app to help consumers stay up-to-date with a new page dedicated to keeping Canadians informed about changes in access to essential items.
On a normal day, InkSmith focuses on helping educators around the world build hands-on, experiential learning opportunities to engage students in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math). They turned their incredible ingenuity toward addressing a shortage in personal protective equipment, producing face shields for health care workers using 3D printers and laser cutters.
With offices closing and businesses shifting to work-from-home, the potential for technical issues for telecommuting workers has never been greater. RouteThis is providing Internet Service Providers with the tools to diagnose wifi-related issues, such as slow connection speeds and device disconnections, without having to dispatch a service technician. The company made its RouteThis LiveView tool free for ISPs to use during the pandemic.
In addition to playing its usual lead role in coordinating the Waterloo Region tech community, Communitech has also made their Peer2Peer program – which offers peer support networks in a vast array of fields – available via virtual sessions. Find the full list of virtual P2Ps here.
The Accelerator Centre is one of the world’s top business accelerators and their graduates include some of the fastest-growing scale-ups in Canada. While we were all stuck indoors, the Accelerator Centre offered free virtual workshops on navigating the COVID-19 pandemic to startups across Canada.
Murphy’s Law Distillery
Distilleries around the world are shifting their production from tasty libations to helpful hand sanitizers and this Waterloo Region distillery is no exception. Usually the purveyors of moonshine – yes, moonshine – Murphy’s Law Distillery made hand sanitizer for essential workers like cashiers, truckers and those working in care homes.
The innovators behind an all-in-one customer support dashboard for remote and on-site teams, Summatti helped companies make the work-for-home transition easier by providing one month of free access to their insights package for those using Zendesk and Salesforce.
A Waterloo-grown tech giant, BlackBerry is now one of the world’s leading cybersecurity firms. To support continued global business activities, BlackBerry Executive Chairman and CEO John Chen announced that the company would offer many of its security products free for 60 days, including support for secure collaboration, remote working, messaging and phone calls.
A Canadian tech superstar with a significant presence in Waterloo, Shopify supported online retailers through a suite of new policies and programs, including making digital gift cards a standard feature on all plans, extending their free trial window from 14 days to 90 days and hosting a series of webinars to help business owners weather this pandemic.