TORONTO, ON – June 25, 2020 – ThinkData Works, Inc. (@thinkdataworks) announced today that it has raised $8 million (CAD) in Series A financing led by BDC Capital Inc (BDC ICE Fund) and Yaletown Capital Partners with participation by existing investors, First Ascent Ventures and Extreme Venture Partners.
ThinkData’s end-to-end data management platform, Namara, streams data from any source in the world – public or private – in any format and structure to allow organizations to use endless amounts of data to layer upon existing practices and fuel new business intelligence solutions.
“The ability to layer multiple data sources, both proprietary and public in a standardized structure allows rapid insights that impact the bottom line for all of our customers,” said Bryan Smith, Co-Founder and CEO of ThinkData. “As we continue to simplify the process to access product ready data for the enterprise, we have seen management realize the high cost and inefficiencies of the problems associated with data variety.”
ThinkData’s customer roster includes Royal Bank of Canada, the Government of Canada, Bank of Nova Scotia, TD Bank, and Roche Pharmaceuticals.
“For ThinkData to have won customers of such a high caliber and sophistication speaks to the quality of the platform and technology,” said Sean Brownlee, General Partner at BDC ICE Fund. “The fact that demand for their solution has only increased despite the concerns around the current economic uncertainty demonstrates the value the company can unlock for customers.”
First Ascent Ventures were an early investor in ThinkData. “We were very impressed with the founding team of Bryan Smith (CEO) and Brendan Stennett (CTO) and they have continued to innovate and deliver extraordinary value to customers with a high level of capital efficiency,” said Tony van Marken, Managing Partner of First Ascent Ventures.
ThinkData will use the latest funding to add new talent across Engineering, Sales and Marketing and expand globally. “Having supportive investors is paramount as an entrepreneur and First Ascent Ventures has been a valuable partner and mentor to the management team. We look forward to working with BDC and Yaletown, our new investors, as we scale the company and build a world class organization,” said Bryan Smith, Co-Founder and CEO of ThinkData.
About ThinkData Works ThinkData Works, Inc. is a Toronto-based data technology company founded in 2014 that makes data access easy. ThinkData’s end-to-end data management platform, Namara, supplies data professionals with efficient tooling for every stage of the data lifecycle. We provide large enterprises access to more data, with less overhead and more confidence to fuel their products, models, and solutions.
BDC ICE BDC Capital’s Industrial, Clean and Energy (ICE) Technology Venture Fund tailors its investments towards capital-efficient and scalable businesses enhancing resource productivity with the potential to operate across a global market. We invest in early and development stage Canadian companies, and use our experience in materials, electronics and ICT to build commercially successful global companies.
Yaletown Partners Yaletown Partners is dedicated to closing the emerging-growth stage investment gap faced by technology companies in Canada, and invests in technology companies that enhance industry and enterprise productivity and sustainability, to help accelerate their growth, shorten exit timeframes and achieve strong exit premiums. The fund has offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Montréal, and a growing presence in Toronto,
Tony van Marken knows what it takes to climb a financial mountain, so how are successful start-ups managing under COVID-19?
Tony van Marken knows what it takes to climb a financial mountain, so how are successful start-ups managing under COVID-19? The managing partner of First Ascent Ventures explains why not all technology companies are suffering, why enterprise-oriented firms aren’t immune, and how they can adapt to the new normal. Not all start-ups are created equal. van Marken points out that just because a start-up isn’t exposed directly to the consumer that doesn’t mean it isn’t exposed to uncertainty during COVID-19. If you can survive this…
van Marken believes CEOs who can adapt to the pandemic will make their businesses more resilient in the good times, and more likely to accelerate their growth rates once we come out on the other side of the virus
We are excited to announce our partnership with JPMorgan Chase, which is now offering Sensibill’s receipt capture and management solution through the Chase Mobile app! With the Chase Mobile Banking app, everyday banking customers can manage home office expenses, submit proof of purchase for insurance claims, track their spending at a granular level, and much more.
Chase has created a digital banking experience that makes it easier for consumers and businesses to manage their finances,” said Corey Gross, co-founder and CEO at Sensibill. “Through our partnership with Chase, millions of customers will have access to a best-in-class product that solves the hassle of expense and receipt management.”
Receipts have historically been a major source of friction and headache for consumers and businesses alike. Sensibill’s digitized approach to receipt management will allow Chase’s customers to conveniently monitor spending and manage their purchases from within the Chase Mobile app. Through a progressive rollout, Sensibill’s solution will be available within the Chase Mobile app to all of its 38 million active mobile users later this year.
Chase is the U.S. consumer and commercial banking business of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), a leading global financial services firm with assets of $3.1 trillion and operations worldwide. Chase serves nearly half of America’s households with a broad range of financial services, including personal banking, credit cards, mortgages, auto financing, investment advice, small business loans and payment processing. Customers can choose how and where they want to bank: More than 4,900 branches in 38 states and the District of Columbia, 16,000 ATMs, mobile, online and by phone. For more information, go to chase.com.
LinkSquares, a Boston-based company that provides an AI-based contract management and analysis platform for corporate legal departments, is today announcing the roll-out later this month of a product that extends its platform to the pre-signature, contract-generation process, to offer enterprises an end-to-end platform for drafting, reviewing and managing contracts.
The company says that the new product, called LinkSquares Finalize, will work seamlessly with its existing post-signature product, which it now calls LinkSquares Analyze, to provide an integrated platform.
LinkSquares Finalize will provide three capabilities, the company says:
Drafting. The product will enable legal teams and sales, HR, procurement, marketing, and other internal departments to create documents with pre-approved language based on contract templates, helping finalize contracts more quickly and reduce risk through the use of standardized language.
Contract review and versioning. The product will allow contract management teams to receive notifications throughout the negotiation process and work autonomously on redlining and negotiations, while also engaging with other departments that may need to contribute.
Approval. The product provides final approval notification, notifying the general counsel, chief legal officer or other department heads who need to provide sign-off on the final contract.
The company says it developed the product in response to feedback from its customers — which include DraftKings, Fitbit and Asurion — that wanted an integrated platform for pre- and post-signature contract management.
“In the race to accelerate contract generation and approvals while using a lean bank of tools and resources, legal teams demanded a solution that could handle both pre-signature activity and post-signature analysis,” Vishal Sunak, LinkSquares CEO and cofounder, said in a statement.
“The new pre-signature capabilities give legal teams one, end-to-end tool that can handle contracts at their inception through execution, which removes silos and improves transparency for a streamlined contracting process across the organization.”
In February, the five-year-old company announced that it had raised $14.5 million in a Series A financing round, bringing its total financing to $21.5 million.
Corporate contract management may be the hottest area in legal technology right now, at least when measured by investment dollars. Just last month, a single day saw investments in four companies totalling $70 million.
This article, by First Ascent Ventures, is the first in a series that will outline emerging trends across the Privacy and Security space.
It would be an understatement to say that COVID-19 has drastically altered daily life and business dealings across the globe. The Canadian technology space is not immune to this disruption and as a venture fund supporting local innovation, the daily announcement of layoffs across the technology ecosystem has been painful to watch.
At First Ascent Ventures, we have worked very closely with each of our North American portfolio companies to deepen our understanding of not only the challenges but also the numerous opportunities(eternal Canadian optimists!) that exist across various verticals in enterprise software.
One such area that First Ascent Ventures has spent considerable time exploring is the Privacy and Security startup space. In the past year, the fund has added significant privacy industry expertise with Katharine Tomko, the Former Head of Privacy Programs at Facebook, joining as a Venture Partner.
This article will discuss some of the work our fund has undertaken in the Privacy and Security space, and specifically, outline four areas within privacy that have been highlighted as “ripe for startup disruption” since the COVID-19 crisis emerged.
Trends and Opportunities
Connecting Remote Workers With The Systems And Services That They Need To Perform Their Jobs.
Problem — While most companies have the infrastructure for remote employee connectivity (VPN, etc.), very few have the capacity to provide for a fully remote workforce for months at a time. The first weeks of lockdown were a scramble for hardware capacity, circuit upgrades, and hasty network configuration changes with a view of ‘it’s an emergency, we’ll clean this up later’, and the associated security headaches. Employee productivity was often hampered by poor network performance, as over-taxed VPN infrastructure was forced to scale beyond its design.
Opportunity —“Support of large scale remote working” as a highly available, performance service is now a budgetary item for every company that employs knowledge workers. Most forward-thinking companies will iterate beyond the traditional centralized VPN architecture, and move to a ‘zero trust’ architecture, as popularized by Google’s own corporate network with their ‘Beyond Corp’ design. The Zero Trust model assumes that there are hackers both within and outside the network, which effectively prevents any machine from being automatically trusted. Zero Trust ultimately shifts access controls from the perimeter (ie. a VPN gateway) to internally authenticating and verifying individual devices and computers. This allows employees to work securely from any location without the need for a traditional VPN. This will serve as a major technology refresh for most large companies and their ‘traditional’ VPN device vendors will not be able to accommodate this change with their existing holistic solutions. There are no standout ‘incumbent’ players in this massive market, and opportunities exist across all areas of this architecture.
Securing And Tracking Remote Employee Assets.
Problem — There are in essence two problems at work here. First, most large IT infrastructures have been built with the physical office in mind, and remote workers are an afterthought. Existing management systems and security tooling are often subpar for remote devices. Second, the biggest security problem that most companies have is understanding their existing device inventory; solid asset management and inventory are the cornerstones of any good security program — for example, you can’t patch unaccounted-for inventory. The Equifax breach, which happened through a staging server that was ‘forgotten’, is an illustrative example. Remote working further exacerbates this problem as the assets are pushed out beyond the traditional network edge.
Opportunity — A significant amount of security budget dollars have been spent on plugging ’security devices’ into internal networks over the past twenty years (intrusion detection, etc.). As the design of the network changes towards a model where both ‘on network’ and remote workers are treated equally as first class citizens, we can expect a whole new category of security control to emerge. The billions of dollars spent on security hardware will move into software. Similarly, as companies move to a ‘zero trust’ networking architecture, they will be fully reliant on their asset management and inventory systems being up to date to ensure that they are only providing data access to devices that they actively manage and maintain.
Business Continuity Planning & Execution.
Problem — While most companies have some form of a business continuity plan, it’s usually a neglected 45 page document at the bottom of a drawer, with little understanding of its practical use. During COVID-19, boards, investors and key customers were all asking for details on business continuity plans, often requiring a copy of the actual document, and specifics on how it has been tested and updated over time.
Opportunity —Business continuity planning is a fairly specialized practice, with ‘control owners’ spread across all parts of the organization. It’s extremely laborious to create, test, update and attain management approval for these plans, and they are almost always missing some key types of ‘disaster’ — how many companies had ‘pandemic’ as a realistic risk to plan for in 2020? Now that companies have executed their plans (often for the first time), and been forced into transparency with their key stakeholders, we can expect to see renewed focus on building and maintaining a comprehensive disaster recovery/business continuity plan. There are opportunities for software to streamline this process, from guiding the organization through best practices in creating the plan, to managing control ownership across the organization, to ensuring regular testing of the plan and providing board visibility.
Physical Security/Safety of Employees.
Problem — While most travel has been eliminated from company budgeted expenses for the second and third quarter of 2020, many foresee a steady return to normal business travel later this year and into early 2021. Companies are responsible for the safety of their employees while they are on business travel or working in remote offices, and employee health (exposure to outbreaks, etc.), and safety (civil unrest, quarantine rules, etc.), will be a top priority. It has been some time since the average employee contemplated their safety while traveling for business. If business travel is really necessary for a job function, expect employees to hold their employer to a higher standard when it comes to safeguarding their health.
Opportunity — The largest and most forward-thinking companies already track and provide support to their employees while on business travel. As both employer and employee fully internalize who really owns the risks of business travel, expect these types of ‘global security operations centers’ to become more commonplace at large organizations, and to trickle down into smaller companies. Opportunities exist for software to support these functions, with integrations into corporate travel systems and automated integrations with government travel advisories.
We would encourage both startups and larger organizations to reflect on these four emerging trends in the privacy and security space and examine their own capabilities to address these concerns. First Ascent Ventures is confident that while these issues arose because of the massive work from home movement caused by COVID-19, enterprises will continue to keep privacy and security top of mind even after the world returns to normalcy (i.e. back to the office).
First Ascent Ventures is dedicated to working with companies and/or investors addressing these gaps in enterprise privacy. We hope to contribute and ensure that the next-generation of enterprise security is one that actively prepares companies for the future privacy challenges that lie ahead, rather than reacting after it is too late.
First Ascent Ventures — Who We Are And Behind the Name
First Ascent Ventures was founded in 2015 and is a Toronto based VC fund that invests in emerging Canadian and U.S.-based technology companies that are building the next generation of disruptive, enterprise B2B software. www.firstascent.vc
In mountaineering, a first ascent is the first successful, documented summit of a mountain by an unclimbed route. First ascents are notable because they entail genuine exploration, with greater risks, challenges and recognition than climbing a route pioneered by others. This is not dissimilar to the challenges and risks involved in building a start-up technology company.
Brazilian content marketing startup Rock Content has announced the purchase of US sector player ScribbleLive, creating one of the largest companies in the segment in the Americas.
The buyout, announced exclusively to Forbes, is the continuation of the company’s international expansion, which began in 2017 with the launch of operations in Mexico. With the addition of ScribbleLive (SL), which has offices in Boca Ratón and Toronto, the enlarged Rock organization will boost its 400-strong workforce with about 100 employees. The two companies combined have a freelancer base of about 80,000 professionals.
The new company also brings a client portfolio that includes names like Red Bull, Cisco, FedEx, Dell, Reuters, Deloitte and American Express. Some of the organizations in this consolidated portfolio of over 2,000 customers that were existing clients, such as Oracle, will be catered for with services in Portuguese, Spanish and English, as well as other content-related products offered by the group.
“Being able to help our customers consolidate their content marketing efforts across multiple geographies and languages is the most exciting piece this acquisition brings,” said Rock co-founder Diego Gomes. “Our network of creative professionals is a unique feature that no other content platform can offer.”
The value of the deal was not disclosed, but, according to Gomes, the price tag is in the “tens of millions of dollars” and involved the exit of about a dozen SL investors, such as Summerhill Venture Partners, First Ascent Ventures and Fidelity Growth. The buyout was supported by a small funding round from Rock’s current investor base, which includes e.bricks Ventures, Provence Capital and Unbox Capital.
Sensibill, a Toronto-based AI-powered digital receipt startup targeting freelancers and small business owners, has raised US$31.5 million in a Series B funding round joined by National Bank of Canada.
The round, led by AI-focused venture fund Radical Ventures, and joined by Information Venture Partners and First Ascent Ventures, brings Sensibill’s total financing to $46.5 million.
Founded in 2013, Sensibill works with banks such as TD and Scotiabank to incorporate its digital receipt technology into their apps, enabling personal and business customers to manage line item receipts from their phones.
The platform uses machine learning to structure receipt data and give both banks and their customers rich insights such as product information, return policy tracking and auto-categorisation.
Since its 2017 Series A round, the firm has doubled its headcount, opened a London office and has now won more than 30 bank deals in Canada, the US and UK, many with Tier 1 players such as RBS.
Corey Gross, CEO, Sensibill, says: “What we’re trying to do at Sensibill is bridge the gap between what banks are good at today, and where they need to be in five or ten years to protect their relationships from disruption. Tools beyond core banking, an incredible customer experience, and meaningful customer insights for banks–that’s what we bring to the table.”
SAN FRANCISCO: Business Wire has partnered with investor relations cloud platform Q4.
The exclusive partnership is combining Business Wire’s distribution and newswire services with Q4’s communications and intelligence platforms, according to a statement from the companies.
“Business Wire and Q4 have known each other for a long time,” said Richard DeLeo, COO at Business Wire. “We’re both preferred providers to the New York Stock Exchange IPO program. The opportunity to give [Q4] access to distribution and Business Wire clients access to their best-in-class IR services was attractive to us.”
DeLeo added that this is only “phase one” of their partnership.
“We’re going to put our heads together about how we can integrate further and create more products,” he added.
Business Wire has not used the acquisition-heavy strategy of its competitors, such as Meltwater and Cision, who have been trying to drive innovation through consolidation.
“We are always looking at ways that we can enhance the news-distribution process as well as deliver ROI and metrics to our client base,” DeLeo said.
Q4 services DeLeo highlighted include web-hosting capabilities, as well as analytics and intelligence in IR. Pooling Q4 and Business Wire’s resources will “help simplify complex workflows, drive valuation, reduce volatility and deepen stakeholder engagement,” according to a statement from the companies.
The deal “makes sense as a partnership,” according to Burton-Taylor International Consulting associate Christopher Porter.
“We were also struck by the mention of webcasting as an area of cooperation. Webcasting is an area of particular focus for West [Corporation], who since 2018 are the owners of GlobeNewswire, which Burton-Taylor considers to be the next-largest press-release-distribution business in the world after Business Wire,” Porter added.
Business Wire was identified as the fourth-largest player in the comms tech industry in a report by Burton-Taylor.
In February, Business Wire expanded its Paris office adding staff and pursuing growth in France and southern Europe.
Business Wire once partnered with TrendKite, the digital PR platform that was acquired by Cision this year. Trendkite provided its analytics to Business Wire, packaged in its NewsTrak reports. That partnership has ended.
Berkshire Hathaway acquired Business Wire in 2006 for an undisclosed amount.
New York and Toronto – February 21, 2019 – Q4 Inc., a leading global provider of cloud-based investor relations solutions, announced today the launch of its “IR Success Platform.” The platform combines Q4’s market-leading IR product suite, with a new white-glove customer experience model that partners with IROs to help them achieve both their tactical and strategic objectives, from daily tasks to annual program goals.
“The rise of new technologies, along with a constantly changing regulatory landscape are disrupting today’s capital markets. But while the scope of the IR role has expanded, in most cases, resources and budgets haven’t increased. You’re being asked to do more with less.” said Darrell Heaps, Q4’s CEO. “We believe that by working with the right partner and arming yourself with the right technology, you can overcome these challenges, to drive strategic value and ‘take a seat at the boardroom table.’ Our new IR Success Platform is designed to help IR teams, of all sizes and shapes, optimize processes and run impactful programs.”
Leveraging the latest in IR technology and tools, combined with dedicated IR professionals, Q4 is committed to delivering best-in-class customer experience. The IR Success Platform provides IROs with a truly dedicated “partner” committed to helping them drive strategic IR value, and is the first of its kind in the market. The IR Success Platform is designed to:
Reduce IR workload and streamlining processes;
Build a robust ownership base and target the right investors;
Improve IRO visibility and engagement with management and the Board; and
Drive stronger valuation relative to market peers.
“We recognize that no two IR teams are the same, and therefore, your needs also differ. With our IR Success Platform, we match you with the right technology and dedicated service team, based on your own unique objectives and challenges. We have you covered, from website and webcasting, to CRM, market intelligence and surveillance, and everything in between, ” said Matt Tractenberg, IR Partner at Q4. “The incredible benefit to our clients and their limited resources is that this is all being provided as a value add, at no additional expense to our clients.”
The IR Success Platform includes three customer experience offerings:
“Communicate” includes web design and webcasting, supported by an IR lead and 24/7 customer service for daily IR tasks.
“Engage” includes Q4’s CRM, web and webcasting, supported by a dedicated IR manager who is focused on executing tactical support across all IR functions.
“Elevate” includes web design, webcasting, CRM and Intelligence products and offers the highest level of strategic experience. It’s supported by a dedicated IR Partner, an ex-IRO with the core mandate to align with client strategies and partner on helping reach their objectives, whatever they may be.
The IR Success Platform is a value add service offered to all Q4 clients, with product configuration being rolled-out over the coming days. For more information please see www.q4inc.com or contact email@example.com .
Toronto – January 23rd, 2019 – ThinkData Works Inc. (ThinkData) has been pre-qualified by the Government of Canada to deliver contracts worth up to $9M related to Artificial Intelligence (AI) services, solutions, and products. The list of qualified providers was announced on January 15, 2019, and was the result of an Invitation to Qualify published through Public Services and Procurement Canada.
Through the Invitation to Qualify, the Government of Canada has pre-approved a list of suppliers who meet all of the mandatory criteria to provide Canada with responsible and effective AI services, solutions, and products. Subsequently, all solicitation opportunities related to Federal Government AI projects will be exclusively distributed to this pre-qualified list of suppliers (the Source List).
“We are very pleased to have been selected to deliver on the largest AI-related projects within the Government of Canada,” says Bryan Smith, Co-Founder and CEO of ThinkData. “We placed a large emphasis on the need for clean data in order to get AI right and we’re happy to hear that the Government agrees. We will be able to deploy our platform, Namara, on nearly every project related to this procurement vehicle and serve up clean, unbiased data as fuel to power all AI solutions.”
ThinkData has also created a vendor ecosystem graphic to better visualize and categorize the Source List:
After research and consultation with industry, academia, and civil society, the Federal Government structured the solicitation around three categories that represent the business needs of the Government of Canada:
Insights and Predictive Modelling: The Government is looking to maximize the value of the data and information it has, and will begin to use AI to analyze and predict outcomes and effectiveness.
Machine Interactions: Canada is increasingly seeking to implement digital channels to facilitate interactions between citizens and government, looking towards chatbots, virtual agents, smart routing, and targeted content distribution to increase service delivery.
Cognitive Automation: The Government intends to introduce automated decision systems in order to further automate repetitive tasks and information-intensive processes.
Vendors on the Source List have been pre-qualified based on their prior experience delivering responsible and effective AI services, solutions, and products. Pre-qualified suppliers will receive notifications of opportunity (“Solicitation”) which will be posted on Buy and Sell. Solicitations will stipulate the maximum amount to be awarded and will be categorized based on the following grades, or “bands”:
Band 1: up to $500K
Band 2: up to $4M
Band 3: up to $9M
To qualify for Solicitation under bands 1, 2, and 3, vendors were required to demonstrate that they had successfully delivered one, three, or five AI project(s), respectively. This process ensures that both emerging companies and global organizations are present on the Source List.
“The different bands made the ITQ accessible to smaller companies and startups who historically get left off of these standing offers due to requirements tailored to large, public companies,” says Smith. “I think the Government did a phenomenal job ensuring home-grown Canadian AI talent could compete for any future government contract. It’s so important that these companies get the opportunity to build solutions for Canada.”