S|W: The SaaS Weekly – BlackBerry names new CEO, ditches spinout IPO plans

BlackBerry building
Plus: Vistara Growth Fund V sets target on enterprise software companies.

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Vistara Growth secures $200-million CAD initial close for fifth private credit fund

Vancouver-based Vistara Growth has raised over $200 million CAD for its latest technology-focused private credit fund.

Vistara, which targets enterprise software companies with between $10 million and $100 million in annual recurring revenue, creates tailored investment structures comprised of debt, equity, or some combination of the two to help tech companies finance organic growth, mergers and acquisitions, or shareholder liquidity initiatives.


BlackBerry names new CEO as company ditches connected-car IPO – but still plans to split in two

BlackBerry has promoted cybersecurity president John Giamatteo to replace recently departed chief executive John Chen and killed plans to spin off its connected car software business into a separate public company.

The company now plans to restructure its two business units into standalone entities in a way that suggests it is preparing to sell one outright. Giamatteo will keep his job running the cybersecurity business in addition to his CEO duties.


Durable raises $18 million CAD as it looks to help service-based businesses run on autopilot

One month after soft-launching its artificial intelligence-powered website builder in the fall of 2022, Durable had already created 26,000 websites.

Today, Durable revealed it has raised $18 million CAD ($14 million USD) in Series A financing, and is now looking to become a full-stack “business in a box” platform for service-based entrepreneurs.

The website builder allows users to input information about their business, and in less than 30 seconds, Durable generates a website complete with a banner, list of services, elevator pitch, and more.



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OpenView, After Deep Layoffs, Mulls Returning Capital or Raising New Funds

OpenView Ventures’ sudden decision last week to lay off most of its staff and halt investments in new startups left one major question unanswered: what to do with the $570 million that endowments and other institutions recently committed to its latest fund.

The final decision, which could come as soon as the first quarter, will indicate whether the nearly 18-year-old firm can chart a new chapter as a smaller firm after the departure of its senior leaders and as the venture capital sector enters a period of austerity and slower dealmaking.


Formerly Qui Identity, Wave alumni launch digital ID verification platform Confirm

Founded by former Wave CEO Kirk Simpson and early Wave investor Peter Carrescia, Toronto-based identity verification Confirm officially launched its identity verification product on Wednesday, aimed at making peer-to-peer selling over online marketplaces safer.

Confirm says it allows people to create a verified digital ID, called a ConfirmID, by submitting a headshot and government-issued document. Users can then create a transaction with their ConfirmID and send it as a link when facilitating an online transaction, which will prove the identity of the buyer and seller without oversharing personal information.


Six Canadian tech founders share their wins and learnings from 2023

It’s no secret that 2023 has been a tumultuous year for tech. But in some ways, for founders, it was a year like any other: navigating challenges and uncertainty to find opportunity and success.

We asked a group of Canadian tech founders to reflect back on an unpredictable year. They shared their views on adopting new technologies, celebrated their biggest wins, and shared what learnings they’ll bring into 2024.


Epic wins its antitrust lawsuit against the Play Store. What does this verdict mean for Google?

Google lost an antitrust lawsuit over barriers to its Android app store, as a federal court jury has decided that the company’s payments system was anticompetitive and damaged smartphone consumers and software developers.

Were it not for Google’s “anticompetitive” behavior, Epic said in its complaint, Android users “could freely download apps from developers’ websites, rather than through an app store, just as they might do on a personal computer.”

How did Google lose this case?


Y Combinator graduate Terminal closes $4.2-million CAD seed round

Toronto-based Terminal, a trucking telematics integrations startup, has closed a $3.1-million USD ($4.2 million CAD) seed round after being one of seven Canadian-affiliated companies participating in Y Combinator’s Summer 2023 cohort.

The growing number of telematics, and the disorganized nature of having separate telematics providers for needs from GPS to LEDs, has been a pain point for trucking fleet owners which require the integrations for regulated safety and insurance purposes. Terminal offers its own API which allows insurance products and fleet software access to various digitized vehicle stats all in one place.


Advice on fundraising and living in the future from Huntress CFO Marcos Torres

Building a business is an exercise in living in the future, according to Marcos Torres, CFO of managed cybersecurity platform Huntress.

In a recent #CIBCInnovationBanking podcast episode, Torres shared his advice for founders who want the best chance of success in difficult times.


How John Raeder would use his $600 million growth fund to scale your startup

After successfully operating businesses through both the dot-com bust and the 2008 Financial Crisis, John Raeder has developed a “paranoia of operational frailty,” always planning for a doomsday scenario.

In a recent #CIBCInnovationBanking podcast episode, Raeder shared how he thinks about growing businesses—and what founders should be doing to set the stage for growth.


Toronto votes to scrap cap on ride-share licences

Toronto city council is rescinding its temporary cap on the number of licences for ride-share drivers in the city, just over two months after it was initially passed.

At a council meeting Thursday, councillors voted to get rid of the ban, but also to conduct a consultation process and produce a report about the issue, which could lead to the cap being reinstated at a later date.

The change comes after Uber made a court application in an effort to overturn the ban earlier this month.


Notman House is in trouble. What’s next for the home of Montréal tech?

Notman House, the Montréal startup hub run within a 187-year-old heritage building, will likely be put up for sale as government creditors claim years of unpaid debt.

Many are now concerned about what Notman’s uncertain future means for Montréal tech.

A new initiative with a similar mission called Ax-C, which is set to open on the former trading floor of the Montréal Exchange by the end of next year, has garnered $48 million in government support. Meanwhile the OSMO Foundation, which owns and operates Notman House, owes $323,000 in unpaid mortgage fees to the Business Development Bank of Canada and Investissement Québec.


E-Signature Company DocuSign Explores a Deal

E-signature company DocuSign is working with advisers to explore a sale, in what could be one of the largest leveraged buyouts in recent memory.

Conversations for the $11 billion company are in the early stages, people familiar with the situation said, and there are no guarantees a deal will be reached. DocuSign could attract interest from private-equity firms and technology companies.


How Xero overhauled its customer support function using gen AI

New Zealand-headquartered and Canada-connected Xero recently launched a gen AI solution for its Xero Central self-service helpdesk, built in partnership with Québec-based AI software platform Coveo.

Speaking with BetaKit, Nigel Piper, executive general manager at Xero, explained how the project came to be and what it took to build and implement a solution.


Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl is a staff writer and newsletter curator at BetaKit with a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University. He's interested in tech, gaming, and sports. You can find out more about him at alexriehl.com or @RiehlAlex99 on Twitter.

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