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Sidewalk Labs co-founds venture capital fund to invest in urban tech

The fund could launch and begin making investments next year but it is conditional on Sidewalk Labs’ Toronto project being approved.

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Alphabet-owned Google sibling Sidewalk Labs is partnering with Plaza Ventures to set up a new venture capital fund. Quayside Venture Partners (QVP) will invest in Canadian start-ups focused on issues such as sustainability, mobility and housing affordability.

 

The fund will include a $10 million commitment from Sidewalk Labs, tied to its proposed Quayside development in Toronto. It is expected that Canadian investors will make up at least 50 per cent of the fund.

 

QVP will also create three advisory networks of Canadian industry experts and C-level executives to support the early-stage firms. They will focus on funding, strategy, marketing and technology as well as areas such as responsible data use practices. Mentors and advisers signed up include Michele Romanow, President, Clearbanc; Tony Lacavera, Chairman, Globalive; and Ben Zifkin, CEO, Hubba.

 

"This fund is meant to empower Canada’s growing urban tech ecosystem to take advantage of our Toronto project and to scale up as the Quayside neighbourhood Toronto project is built."

 

“Canada is already a leader in urban tech innovation. We’ve seen great successes like MioVision, Ecobee and Transit, all of which have been able to build and scale their companies in Canada,” said Nicole LeBlanc, Sidewalk Labs’ Director of Investments. “This fund is meant to empower Canada’s growing urban tech ecosystem to take advantage of our Toronto project and to scale up as the Quayside neighbourhood Toronto project is built.”

 

Conditional

 

The fund could launch and begin making investments next year, but it is conditional on Sidewalk Labs’ Toronto project being approved by Waterfront Toronto. The initiative has proved controversial. Last month, the Board of Waterfront Toronto unanimously agreed that Sidewalk Labs’ plan to create a smart neighbourhood in a disused area of Toronto’s Quayside district could proceed to more formal evaluation and further public consultation.

 

However, certain elements were significantly scaled back, including the amount of land, the oversight of data and the “lead developer” role.

 

Sidewalk Labs also released a 483-page Digital Innovation Appendix (DIA) providing details on the digital innovation components of its proposal and aiming to address some of the questions raised following the release of the 1,500-page draft master innovation and development plan (MIDP) in June. The DIA noted, for instance, that Sidewalk Labs won’t sell data or use facial recognition technology in the Toronto development.

 

A decision about whether to move forward with Sidewalk Labs’ plan will be made by March 31, 2020, by Waterfront Toronto’s Board.

 

“This fund could support Canadian urban technology companies, build the ecosystem, and transform Toronto and Canada into the global urban technology hub.”

 

“Our mission at Plaza Ventures is to connect growing companies to a wealth of knowledge and capital from successful investors. This is an opportunity to do just that for Canada’s urban tech community,” said Matthew Leibowitz, Plaza Ventures’ General Partner. “This fund could support Canadian urban technology companies, build the ecosystem and transform Toronto and Canada into the global urban technology hub.”

 

Elsewhere, there has been speculation that Sidewalk Labs could also make a play for smart city development projects in Vancouver.

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