Tech update: Heat wave highlights need for cleantech, and the startups winning in a tough housing market


Roger Pettingell Sarasota Real Estate

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Ferocious heat has gripped much of Europe and North America recently, with many regions setting new temperature records.

Eastern England saw its hottest day ever with a sweltering 40.3 degrees Celsius. In the U.S., about 100 million people were under heat warnings as temperatures rose well above 38 C.

Here at home, Environment Canada issued heat warnings for four provinces. Parts of Ontario saw the mercury surpass 30 C, but the humidity made it feel like the upper 30s. These extreme temperature trends are becoming more commonplace due to climate change.

There have been clear calls for action to mitigate the impacts of climate change. An April report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that temperatures on Earth will shoot past a key danger point unless greenhouse-gas emissions fall faster than current global targets.

Canada’s federal government is aiming to cut emissions by 40 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, and is ultimately hoping to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Technology plays a crucial role in helping to reduce the impact of climate change, and Vancouver-based ​​Miru Smart Technologies believes it could be part of that solution.

The company has developed “eWindows” that provide more insulation than conventional windows. It has integrated electrochromic layers between glass panes, which change colour in response to an electrical current. The company says this helps reduce greenhouse-gas emissions that come from heating, cooling, lighting and ventilating buildings.

“The inefficiency of windows is responsible for much of these emissions,” said Curtis Berlinguette, CEO of Miru Smart Technologies. “The variable control of light and heat by Miru eWindows can reduce building energy use by more than 20 per cent.”

Toronto-based Enersion Inc. has also invented a green cooling technology, one that converts hot water into cold water by using a material with tiny pores. This enables massive amounts of cooling without electricity. The A/C system is also paired with hybrid solar panels that simultaneously produce both electricity and hot water.

“It is essential to replace the current technology with a solution that is sustainable, does not create a burden on energy resources and does not use refrigerants that leak into the atmosphere,” said Hanif Montazeri, CEO and Co-Founder. “Enersion’s technology truly provides the cleanest and most efficient way to harness solar radiation.”

Tech helps both home buyers and lenders in uncertain times: It’s something Canadians haven’t seen in nearly four decades. Canada’s inflation rate rose to 8.1 per cent in June — the highest year-over-year increase since January 1983. In an effort to try to slow the soaring of prices, the Bank of Canada recently raised its key interest rate by a full percentage point.

The increase in interest rates has had a significant impact on Canada’s housing market. Mortgage rates are rising, making it harder for home buyers as well as homeowners with variable rates. But there are some winners in this housing downturn.

Increased interest rates mean credit scores are more important than ever as financial institutions use them to determine if you qualify for a loan, and at what rate. That’s good news for Toronto-based Borrowell, which offers free credit scores to consumers.

“During challenging economic times, it’s especially important to stay in control of your overall financial well-being,” said Andrew Graham, CEO and co-founder of Borrowell. “Using an app like Borrowell to monitor your score and get tips on improving your credit profile will help you navigate the current economic situation and work towards future financial goals.”

Toronto startup-based Fundscraper Capital Inc., an online real estate investment marketplace, also sees opportunity amid these challenges.

For retail investors interested in diversifying into private real estate, there may be challenges closing on investment-property purchases; borrowing has become more expensive, and they may no longer qualify for mortgages from traditional financing sources. Fundscraper lets them make micro-investments in real estate-related projects, which in turn provides capital to developers and other players in the market.

“This is where the private lending market comes in to fill the financing gap,” said Luan Ha, CEO of Fundscraper Capital Inc. “We help these customers by allowing our investor clients to provide liquidity through investments into various vehicles that specialize in funding this lending market.”

The rise in interest rates is also impacting lenders as business volumes decline. Lenders have to compete harder for new customers and to keep their existing ones, and that’s where companies like Toronto-based Senso.ai come in.

It’s a technology platform for mortgage providers to predict customer behaviour and proactively retain those customers before a competing lender poaches them away.

“Lenders who think strategically about providing a better, more modern experience to customers will be the winners through these challenging times,” said Saroop Bharwani, CEO of Senso.ai.

Helping tech workers look at the glass as half full: It’s a sign of the times. Ottawa-based Shopify laid off about 1,000 people, or about 10 per cent of its workforce, this week after it saw a slowdown in online shopping.

And the e-commerce giant isn’t alone. Google recently said it would freeze hiring for two weeks and Twitter laid off 30 per cent of its talent acquisition team this month.

While these headlines may seem ominous for tech workers, some good news that may come out of it.

The increased number of workers in the job market is actually helping some companies fill their talent gap. Tech startups unfazed by rising interest rates and lower VC funding are capitalizing on the influx of candidates by snatching up highly specialized workers who were recently let go.

Laid-off tech workers could find their next opportunity with The Help List, run by Kitchener-based Communitech. Originally created in response to the pandemic, the talent platform was just updated and relaunched. Anyone affected by recent layoffs can add their names and stand out to recruiters and talent teams within Communitech’s tech-venture network.

“The Help List was created to help anyone facing an unexpected layoff to land on their feet,” said Chris Albinson, CEO and president of Communitech. “We hope that it continues to connect talented candidates to opportunities in Canada’s diverse and comprehensive tech ecosystem.”

In other news:

  • Oncoustics has secured $5.5 million in seed funding, co-led by Creative Ventures and Saltagen Ventures. The Toronto-based company is developing an AI-powered software platform designed to turn existing ultrasound devices into powerful and portable surveillance, diagnostic and monitoring systems for preventive care and early intervention in cancer treatment.
  • Verv Technologies has secured $3.8 million in seed funding from biotechnology and laboratory services leader Randox Laboratories. The Sudbury company will use the funding to create a first-of-its-kind at-home blood-testing kit.
  • Seniors care-provider platform Welbi Technologies has hired Jeff Wright as director of sales. The former senior director at PointClickCare will help the Ottawa venture rapidly ramp up hiring, with Wright taking a central role in building the company’s sales culture and strategy.
  • Toronto-based Lightster launched a new mobile platform for companies to get continuous feedback from their customers. Users are rewarded for their time with exclusive access and financial rewards.

  • Renowned athlete, philanthropist and entrepreneur Donovan Bailey has joined Waterloo-based Spensor Inc. as a member of its advisory board. The company’s sensor technology focuses on empowering athletes to improve their skills through real-world, accessible analytics.

Dawn-Flora Angue writes about technology for MaRS. Torstar, the parent company of the Toronto Star, has partnered with MaRS to highlight innovation in Canadian companies.

Disclaimer This content was produced as part of a partnership and therefore it may not meet the standards of impartial or independent journalism.


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