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.

Amazon to Bring Streaming Service To Canada

Netflix and Crave subscribers beware. There is another subscription service coming on top of your Prime TV membership that comes standard with Amazon Prime account.

Soon you will have a choice of 13 ondemand and live TV services that can be added on top of your Amazon Prime TV account. It’s not confirmed when this will be launched , but Amazon said that it will be very soon.

Several popular channels will include Nickelodeon and Slack TV.

Unfortunately you will not be able to get HBO or Showtime through Amazon. For that you would need to go through Crave TV in Canada.

Greg Hart, vice president of Amazon Prime Video, said not to worry about lack of many choices for now. He mentioned that when they launched in US they started with 25 channels and now grew all the way to 150.

But things might not take off as nicely in a very reserved Canadian environment where Amazon is being demonized by media companies afraid of losing their dominance.

  • Mary Ann Turcke, Bell Media’s president at the time, said that it will be impossible for Canadian TV providers to acquire content if behemoth of a company like Amazon will get into a bidding war;
  • Helene Laurendeau, deputy minister of Canadian Heritage, said that Amazon will force Canadian TV providers out of business.

SEC Goes After Canadian Unicorn

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is charging Kik Interactive Inc. for illegally distributing US$100-million of digital tokens in 2017.

Kik Interactive, Inc. develops smartphone messaging applications for iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry. Its Kik Messenger enables users to talk to friends, and browse and share various Websites with friends.

Kik is among few beloved emerging Canadian companies that became a unicorn, a company valued at more than $1-billion.

US$55-million was raised via tokens from American investors but not declared.

Securities regulators in US and other countries are not quite sure how to handle digital tokens or coins because they are not regulated yet.

In April 2019, SEC published a guide saying that as long as investors invest money into a company, and company promises them future returns, it does not matter what they invest (could be cash or tokens).

Kik’s founder and CEO Ted Livingston went to twitter to say how ridiculous it was for SEC to go after them and that they are ready for a fight. See his responses below.

SEC states that the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) told Kik to stop selling tokens in Ontario and Kik has stopped to sell there but they continued to sell them in the US without registering them with SEC and without providing investors with disclosures legally required in a securities sale.

“After learning of the OSC’s position, Kik barred Canadians from purchasing Kin in the public sale.”

SEC statement on KIK violation

Vancouver Potentially Cracking Down on Bitcoin ATMs

Police in Vancouver say that Bitcoin ATMs are used for money laundering and must be stopped. Vancouver Mayor agrees with them. Bitcoin users say that federal rules need to be set for bitcoin across Canada.

Unlike banks and money lending services, bitcoin machines are not covered by federal anti-money-laundering regulations.

“Regulate the use and operation of cryptocurrency ATMs, including the requirement for a business licence, requirement for signage to advertise common frauds, requirement for identifications to be used to verify the sender and receiver of funds and requirement of security features.”

Vancouver wants to pass this municipal bylaw soon

Some people might be using bitcoin ATMs to launder money, but many others use it for legitimate purposes.

Police in Vancouver say that many of these machines are used to commit fraud.

There are more than 60 bitcoin ATMs in Vancouver area.

If you have bitcoin or ethereum accounts with coins in it – you can use ATMs to withdraw the money. Typical fee is around 9% to take out the money.

Vancouver is calling for federal government to step up and regulate bitcoin ATMs to make sure they are covered by anti-money-laundering.

Some machines advertise $1,000 or $3,000 limit. Some others do not have any limits at all.