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Waterloo EDC’s top 9 original stories from 2020

A round-up of our very best original stories from 2020, including pieces on ApplyBoard, InkSmith and remote work.

As we begin anew in 2021, the Waterloo EDC team is looking back at the year that was in 2020. We’ve already taken a look at some of the biggest business stories from last year and provided an overview of the reports and rankings that highlight Waterloo as one of Canada’s most exciting economies.

Now, we’re looking at our own original stories from 2020, which drew inspiration from local business successes, exciting new data and, of course, the community’s fight against COVID-19. It was a year like no other, in a community like no other – two themes that run throughout our articles in 2020.

Here are our top 9 original stories from 2020:

1. 12 incredible months in Canada’s most dynamic tech ecosystem

We all know 2020 was a terrible year. But, amid all the terrible, Waterloo was having a miraculous 12 months. From November 2019 to November 2020 we gained three unicorns (Faire, ApplyBoard and Arctic Wolf), watched local companies take the top three spots on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 list, heard about Google’s massive local expansion plans and much more. This article summarized a crazy year that would make any community proud.

2. Day-by-day breakdown: InkSmith’s ultimate COVID-19 pivot

Unexpected challenges can bring out the best in a community, company or person. That was certainly the case in Waterloo this year, where all types and sizes of business stepped up to help out. No story was more mind-blowing than that of InkSmith, which went from being a small edtech startup to a massive personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturer almost overnight. We did a day-by-day breakdown of their first month to chronicle this ultimate COVID-19 pivot.

3. Odyssey Interactive puts Canada’s two-week visa program to the test

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the founders behind Odyssey Interactive raised $7.9 million in funding and launched their company. The only problem: two of the founders weren’t Canadian. They’d need work visas – quickly – and they’d need to get into the country. To do this, they put Canada’s famed two-week visa program to the test and we captured the experience. Want to find out how to move your H-1B workforce to Canada? We wrote about that, too.

4. 5 Charts: Waterloo vs. America’s top emerging tech hubs

Well, this might be cheating, since “5 Charts” is more of a series than a single article. However, entries in this series were some of our most-read posts in 2020 and they gave readers a look at some of the comparative business expansion data we’ve collected. How did Waterloo fair in competition with America’s top emerging tech hubs? Check out our summary post or the deep dives for Austin, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Salt Lake City, Detroit and Phoenix.

5. Mid-sized tech hubs aren’t all created equal

In an article for Harvard Business Review, renowned business expert Richard Florida highlighted how COVID-19 would change corporate location strategy, noting that mid-sized cities are becoming better options for talent-focused satellite offices.

6. The making of a PPE manufacturing powerhouse

When 2020 started, no one thought we’d need massive domestic PPE manufacturing capacity. With the arrival of COVID-19, communities across North America scrambled to source masks, face shields, swabs and more. In Waterloo, we built our own capacity. Starting with minimal local PPE manufacturing capacity, the community ended the year with 90+ operations producing PPE for the Canadian market. How’d our community make this pivot so quickly? We took a look at what makes Waterloo so unique in the manufacturing, robotics and automation spaces.

7. ApplyBoard: A “Made in Waterloo” Story

The second of three local companies to become a unicorn in the last 15 months, ApplyBoard is an innovator in the edtech space, helping connect international students with post-secondary programs in North America. ApplyBoard isn’t just a Waterloo story, it’s a “Made in Waterloo” story. This company has touched just about every part of the local tech ecosystem, from universities and colleges to incubators, hubs and accelerators. We tracked their journey and how each stop helped their company grow.

8. Remote work Q&A series

This is also cheating – it’s clearly a series. But, it was a high-traffic series – people liked it, so it belongs on this list. We sought to help businesses make the switch to remote work through advice from people and companies that have done it. The result? We published Q&As with a digital native company that has always embraced remote work, a massive multinational that decided to make remote work business-as-usual, an expert in remote recruitment and an expert on the future of work and learning.

9. What is the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor

One of the first posts of 2020, this one isn’t complicated. It’s a simple explainer of one of the world’s largest and most dynamic tech clusters, which includes nearly 300,000 tech workers, thousands of tech companies and incredible talent sources. Want to know what makes the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor so special? Read this.

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