News round-up: Canada’s newest unicorn, Clutch raises $ 150M, and AI startups make Forbes 50


U of T startups make Forbes AI 50 list: Toronto tech companies are continuing to make waves in artificial intelligence. Forbes has named two startups with ties to the University of Toronto to its AI 50 list. Cohere, founded by alumnus Aidan Gomez, works on natural language processing. Waabi, founded by Raquel Urtasun, is developing self-driving vehicle technology.

DNAStack recognized by the World Economic Forum: Toronto’s DNAStack has been selected as one of the 100 most promising technology pioneers of 2022 by the World Economic Forum. The list recognizes companies poised to have a significant impact on business and society. Scientists use DNAStack’s open platform to access and analyze biomedical data.

Wattpad’s Allen Lau steps down: Following Wattpad’s $ 754-million sale to South Korean internet company Naver last year, co-founder Allen Lau has announced he’s stepping down as CEO to become an executive advisor to Naver.

Money talk

Tailscale closes $ 128M Series B: US investors CRV and Insight Partners have led a $ 128-million Series B for Toronto-based Tailscale. A spokesperson for the virtual private network provider told BetaKit that it has experienced 1,200 percent year-over-year growth since 2019 as remote work drove demand for its service. It will use the funding to expand its engineering and marketing teams.

Used vehicle startup Clutch raises $ 150M: Toronto-based Clutch has raised $ 150 million to expand its used-vehicle marketplace. Dan Park, Clutch CEO, told BetaKit that the funding would be used to expand their inventory to become the largest pre-owned vehicle dealer in Canada.

Neo Financial is Canada’s newest unicorn: Fintech startup Neo Financial has secured a $ 185-million Series C round from Peter Thiel-backed firm Valar Ventures. The funding moves Neo’s valuation past $ 1 billion, making it Canada’s latest unicorn. Neo is challenging big banks with online accounts for credit cards, savings, mortgages and investments.

Making it

Ethical condoms: Jems is a line of vegan, gluten-free, cruelty-free condoms created by two Toronto moms, Yasemin Emory and Whitney Geller. While looking for birth-control options between pregnancies, Emory and Geller found that condom packaging was outdated and marketed with names that alienate some consumers. “We thought, ‘If we felt left out of this space, how do young people feel?'” Geller told Toronto Life.

Urban gardening business grows: When life gives you lemons, plant a tree. It’s what Ashleigh Paluka did after losing her job last May due to the pandemic. Paluka decided to focus on her passion for urban gardening, which led her to start Hello Plants, an online plant store and delivery service. Hello Plants offers houseplants for everyone, from experienced gardeners to people with questionable green thumbs.

Toronto to get first Michelin star restaurants: The eateries will be named this fall and foodies are excited to see the Toronto food scene recognized for its diversity and quality by the renowned guide. “This further bolsters our reputation as a world destination for food and cuisine,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory.

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