Montreal MNubo acquired for $102m

Mnubo, Montreal based startup, specializing in artificial intelligence , said it was being acquired by an American company, Aspen Technology.

Aspen Technology is also known as AspenTech, is a provider of software and services for the process industries headquartered in Bedford, Massachusetts which is near Boston. AspenTech has spent more than $100m to get mNubo. Mnubo was started in 2012 and employs about 50 employees mostly in Montreal. $100m is not that much money for AspenTech as it is publicly traded company with over $9.2 billion dollars in the market.

We have profiled Mnubo few years ago in our Canadian Startup profiles: Montreal Startup Mnubo Making Devices Smart.

Mnubo’s product is to analyze massive amount of data from different sensors. They specialize in agriculture and manufacturing. For example, just recently they were able to help reduce water consumption by 25% in the State of California.

Frédéric Bastien, co-founder and CEO of Mnubo, said in the company PR:

“The global adoption of AI and IoT technologies is powering the next wave of industrial-digital enterprises. The Mnubo AI and analytics infrastructure was purpose-built to accelerate the digital transformation of traditional industries by democratizing the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Our location in Montreal’s world-class AI ecosystem enables AspenTech to establish a Centre of Excellence for these cutting-edge technologies, and to attract some of the best talent in this space. We are very excited to continue to develop innovative AI solutions that target the industrial internet of things at enterprise scale, under the AspenTech umbrella.”

Bastien is not new to this acquisition rodeo however. He has sold his previous company Blueslice Networks for $35m to another US company.

Toronto’s HomeStars Helps Home Owners Pick Qualified Contractors

We have interviewed Nancy Peterson, founder and CEO of HomeStars, and asked her few questions about the company. HomeStars is Canada’s largest network connecting homeowners with trusted home service pros.

Summarize your company in an elevator pitch.

HomeStars was started in Toronto in 2006 by Nancy Peterson. She was on maternity leave and renovating her own home at the time and was alarmed by the lack of resources available to her to find and hire reputable trades. She started HomeStars with a marketing background (formerly she worked for Kraft) and no real tech experience.

Nancy Peterson working at the office.

HomeStars is Canada’s largest online marketplace connecting homeowners with trusted home service professionals. In 2018, 8 million homeowners visited HomeStars looking for a pro for their next home improvement project. HomeStars, an ANGI Homeservices company, is part of a global network of home improvement marketplaces in Europe, the UK and the US, including Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor.

Who started the company? Do you / team members have tech background?

Nancy said she had no tech background, but now 20% of her workforce are engineers/tech-focused. She currently employs just over 100 people.

How are you being financed?

Originally, the company was financed by Angel Investors and Bank (founder) Debt. But in 2017, HomeStars was acquired by Denver-based HomeAdvisor. They are now part of the ANGI Homeservices group of companies and are part of a worldwide network of home service marketplaces.

What do you think will be / is a big obstacle to overcome?

The biggest obstacle to overcome is consumer awareness.

How do you go about finding good developers / IT guys for your company?

We look across functional areas in the business. We go to meet-ups and events. It’s a very competitive market, but we are in a unique spot in Canada.

We are part of a publicly-traded organization, but with a lot of autonomy. It’s unique since we have all the benefits of a big company, but still run like a start-up. It gives us a great advantage.

Who is your biggest competition?

Google and word of mouth.

How are you intending on taking your company to million dollars in revenues? In what markets?

We have already passed that. We are already 8-digits and are looking to 9-digits.

What is the big lesson you’ve learned (success or failure) with this project.

Reviews are still very vital to what we do. We have built our business on them.

How do you verify your reviews / know they are legit?

First off, yes HomeStars verifies its reviews. Reviews are submitted and before they are published, they go through a series of software checks. These software checks notify review moderators to anything that does not look legit. The moderators then check them manually to ensure there is nothing suspicious. Many reviews are rejected if they are not found to be legit. In addition, as a matter of process, reviews are randomly investigated.

Also as a point of interest, HomeStars is currently doing background and criminal checks on companies and has completed more than 80% so far.

Big telcos in Canada start to offer ‘unlimited’ data plans

In June, most of the big telecom providers in Canada such as Bell, Rogers and Telus, have started with so called unlimited data plans.

Right now, you can get ‘unlimited’ data plan from either of the providers for just $75 a month for high speed of 10gb of data and reduced speeds beyond 10 GB of data for light web browsing, email and texting.

The plan is unlimited but the speeds will go down after your initial 10 GB of downloads. All the plans also provide Unlimited Canada wide calling as well as Unlimited text, picture and video.

The reduced speeds will be at 512 kilobits per second and should be good enough to check your email, Facebook, etc. and also might be just good enough to stream Netflix.

Netflix advises that in order to have good quality video – you should have a connection that is more than 2 Mb/s. Netflix says that you can also stream at speeds of 0.5 Mb/s, but the quality will be grainy on a large screen, much like watching an old VHS movie. Netflix recommends at least 1.5 Mb/s minimum.

Hulu recommends at least 1.5mpbs, Amazon recommends 1mpbs, and iTunes and Youtube say that you should have at least 2.5mpbs.

Some advocacy groups in Canada are pushing for cheaper plans arguing that $75 a month is too expensive for users to afford:

“Ten gigabytes for $75 a month is still prohibitively expensive for a lot of people, especially lower income individuals.”

Marie Aspiazu, a campaigner with Open Media

Some users did not seem to be phased by high cost and were happy with the new unlimited plans.

Quebec Desjardins Starting $45m FinTech Fund

Desjardins is trying to diversify their banking domain by starting a $45m fintech fund in Canada.

The fund will disburse funding between few hundred thousand dollars to $3m dollars to startups for exchange of 10-25% of their companies.

By investing in new startups Desjardins can stay on top of its game when it comes to banking, security as well as insurance and wealth management.

Most of the former investment by Desjardins Capital were made to companies in Quebec, but now with the new fund, Desjardins is keen on investing in companies in the US, EU, and Australia.

“With $45-million, we can do a lot. There’s a lot of noise, there’s a lot of buzz in the fintech industry, and we just have to be quite careful and quite clever about the kind of partnerships [we choose]. We really know what we want to do, what we want to accomplish, so we’re not trying to go everywhere. But with this fund now we have more capacity.”

Guy Cormier, chief executive of Desjardins Group

Desjardins said that they will not only invest into financial startups but also companies like X-TELIA Group Inc., a company that operates a wireless network tailored to home automation. Desjardins said that they are OK to wait few years until companies grow and bear fruit.

“The first goal is not return on investment for us. It’s really to build a relationship that is stronger, tighter with these fintechs, and will help us to build something that is great for our members and clients. The return on investment will be there maybe in a few years.”

Guy Cormier, chief executive of Desjardins Group

15,000 Accounts Hacked at Canada’s Freedom Mobile

Freedom Mobile says that 15,000 accounts were breached earlier this year, and that they will be notifying customers if their accounts were breached.

Freedom Mobile had no idea their system was hacked until security firm vpnMentor notified them of the breach.

vpnMentor said they had reached out to the company few times to let them know but noone from Freedom Mobile ever got back to them.

vpnMentor said that customer database was just sitting there for everyone to download. Report estimates the database had over 1.5 million of unencrypted data of Freedom Mobile’s customers.

Freedom Mobile did not agree with this assessment saying that 1.5 million is not accurate. They said breach began on March 17 and they fixed it on April 23rd.

Under Canadian PIPEDA law, organizations that have their information hacked or breached must notify federal privacy commissioner’s office as soon as possible after the breach.

Toronto Walmart Allows Phone Purchases in Store

No more need for cashiers at a Walmart store in Toronto. Walmart Supercentre near St Claire and Runnymede is testing out fast lane checkout system.

Walmart said that they will also roll out this fast lane check out in Thornhill next year and that if the system will be deemed successful at these stores, it will be rolled out across Canada.

You will need to scan items you want to purchase with your phone. Your credit card information and some other information should already pre-loaded on your phone. Once you scan all the items, add it all up, and click on pay in the app.

This way you can skip all those cashier lines and go through express exit where you just need to show your phone with total added up to the Walmart employee.

“With our new urban supercenter concept, we’re continuing to position ourselves as a leader in store design and retail innovation.

We’re introducing new partners, testing new and innovative technologies, integrating e-commerce with bricks-and-mortar and updating our assortment to improve the customer shopping experience and to appeal more to young families in urban markets.”

Lee Tappenden, the president and CEO of Walmart Canada

Walmart is trying to catch up and compete with Amazon and their brick-and-mortar Amazon Go stores that allow customers pick up items they want and walk out with them without scanning any barcodes.

Ontario Reduces Startup Funding

Ontario government has decided to cut funding to startup and innovation programs in the province.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has promised to balance province’s books at any means necessary.

Ford wants to cut funding by 50% to various provincial agencies that help IT and tech companies scale up in Ontario.

For example, Ontario Centres of Excellence has invested over $80m to help tech companies in the province in 2017-2018. But now, they will lose about 50% of their funding.

The Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, lost about $20m due to the cut.

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Toronto’s MaRS , which supports Canada’s most promising startups , will lose about $2 million in funding (about 30% of its funding).

Communitech, Waterloo tech hub agency, had no choice but to lay off 15 of its 105, due to 30% provincial cut.

Conservative Economic Development Ministry spokesperson Sarah Letersky said in a statement:

“We have had frequent, constructive conversations with the tech sector about creating the conditions that will allow companies to scale and grow. Their recommendations have since informed our approach to the sector, in the context of Ontario’s fiscal situation.”

Economic Development Ministry spokesperson Sarah Letersky

While conservative government in Ontario is reducing subsidies in tech subsidies, liberal federal government has launched $52.4-million funding initiative last month to scale up tech companies faster.

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