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Desire2Learn financing another signal Waterloo isn’t relying solely on RIM

Desire2Learn has hired more than two-hundred people in Kitchener-Waterloo this year. The company is one of nearly a thousand techs in the area, says local hub Communitech. Desire2Learn today announced it had closed an $80 million financing from New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and OMERS Ventures.

Jon Sakoda, a partner at NEA, said the investment came after an extensive analysis of the sector. “As the $1-trillion-plus education market shifts from older legacy products to best-of-breed cloud solutions, Desire2Learn is the clear market leader in a rapidly transforming industry,” he said, adding: “”After an extensive analysis of the newest and most widely deployed learning technologies, we believe Desire2Learn’s comprehensive platform is uniquely suited to meet the needs of the largest and most demanding educational institutions around the world.”

The cloud-based learning company, which was founded in 1999 by John Baker while he was attending the University of Waterloo, is one of the fastest growing tech companies in Canada, and has become a notable recruiter of talent in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. For those tracking the layoffs at Research in Motion, the financing is a clear signal that the regions fortunes will not rise and fall with BlackBerry sales.

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Earlier this year -on the same day RIM announced it would lay off five-thousand employees, it’s largest cull ever- The Conference Board of Canada released a report that said the Waterloo Region will have the highest economic growth in Canada amongst medium-sized cities in 2012.

The area is bolstered by $818-million LRT project and the presence of Toyota, but also by companies such as Open Text, which, last year, became the second tech in the region to pass a billion dollars in revenue,

Non-profit association non-profit tech hub Communitech says the area is now home to nearly 1000 tech companies. Iain Klugman, CEO of the organization, says the financing is part of a larger trend.

“Waterloo Region has cracked the code on creating great tech companies,” he said in a press release today. “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.”

Klugman points out that recent info from the Global Venture Capital and Private Equity Country Attractiveness Index says Canada is now ranked the second most attractive country in the world for venture capital.

Desire2Learn, which develops elearning software for hundreds of clients, including schools, universities and governments says it will use the proceeds of the financing to bolster its customer service, support its growth and further develop its technologies. The company now has 560 employees.

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About The Author /

Nick Waddell
Cantech Letter founder and editor Nick Waddell has lived in five Canadian provinces and is proud of his country's often overlooked contributions to the world of science and technology. Waddell takes a regular shift on the Canadian media circuit, making appearances on CTV, CBC and BNN, and contributing to publications such as Canadian Business and Business Insider.

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