The diverse tech sector in Waterloo Region continues to grow, attracting major investments in an area that’s home to almost 1,000 tech companies. One of the Region’s breakout companies and Canada’s largest eLearning software company Desire2Learn announced earlier today that it has raised $80 million from two top venture funds, signaling a major expansion for the firm. Earlier this year, Communitech announced a $30 million+ seed funding program to further spur innovation in the Region and beyond.
“Waterloo Region has cracked the code on creating great tech companies,” said Iain Klugman, CEO of Communitech. “This news from Desire2Learn, a company which has been on a growth trajectory and has already hired more than 200 people in 2012, is the latest global success story to emerge here. We’re pleased to congratulate Desire2Learn CEO John Baker and his team for achieving this milestone and inspiring others to reach for the brass ring.”
The investment, announced on the first day of school in Ontario, is the largest Series A round to date for a software company in Canada. It involves U.S.-based New Enterprise Associates (NEA) Inc., which recently raised a $2.6-billion fund – and OMERS Ventures, the VC arm of one of Canada’s largest pension funds.
“With a pool of talent and superlative innovation under way in the Region, infusion of capital to jump-start new ventures is the next step to fueling even more companies like Desire2Learn,” Klugman said. “Communitech welcomed the recent news that Canada is now ranked the second most attractive country in the world for venture capital according to the Global Venture Capital and Private Equity Country Attractiveness Index.”
The tech sector in Waterloo Region comprises some 400 startups, hundreds of small-medium enterprises, and large enterprises that have grown to global fame from Waterloo roots. In addition to Desire2Learn being Canada’s largest eLearning company, Waterloo Region is home to Canada’s largest tech company Research In Motion, Canada’s largest software company OpenText, Canada’s largest satellite company COM DEV, and one of the world’s top producers of visual technology displays, Christie Digital Systems Canada Inc.
Desire2Learn, like OpenText, was created with brainpower honed at the University of Waterloo. Desire2Learn CEO John Baker started the company as a fourth-year university student in 1999, and his venture now employs more than 560 employees – expanding daily – serving 700 clients and more than 8 million eLearners around the world. The company has extended its solutions beyond K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions, to government and corporate clients.
Tech entrepreneurship in Waterloo Region is nurtured organically through programs designed to attract students to maths and sciences in the K-12 system, followed by post-secondary education at two universities or colleges in the Region, and then through a collaborative community of some 1,000 tech companies, with coaching and support from deliberate ecosystem support programs.
One of those programs fostering innovation is Communitech’s HYPERDRIVE, a $30 million+ startup incubator which is currently shepherding its first cohort of eight startups through a three-month initial phase that will include a stint in New York City at the heart of the financial market.
“With a strong tech ecosystem, supportive funding and mentoring programs in place, a positive tech community with a mix of startups, mid-sized companies and global multi-nationals, Waterloo Region is poised to see many more success stories emerge from what is fast becoming recognized as Canada’s top tech innovation hub,” said Klugman.