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Report on Small Business Newsletter: OMERS backs ‘anti-Google’ firm DuckDuckGo, seven productivity tips from Dragons’ Den star Michele Romanow and offering ‘fur-ternity leave’ for new pet owners

OMERS leads $10-million financing of alternative search engine DuckDuckGo

One of Canada’s largest pension funds is financing DuckDuckGo Inc., a rapidly growing search engine that positions itself as the “anti-Google” because it doesn’t track or store its users’ search results. The Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System is leading a US$10-million investment in the profitable U.S. firm, which handles about 24 million searches a day and generates more than US$25-million in annual revenue. DuckDuckGo has steadily grown following a rash of disclosures in recent years about how much personal data is harvested online and used by Google, Facebook and the U.S. National Security Agency. It’s a small but symbolic investment by the pension giant. Story

Ontario's grey-market cannabis businesses chart paths to regulation

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Ontario’s dispensary operators are facing an existential dilemma: Shut down in the hopes of securing a coveted cannabis retail licence from the province by next April or continue selling a drug they say should be made easily available now more than ever. Industry insiders expect that owners of many of the 100 or so dispensaries in and around Toronto will plan to go legal. To do so, they will have to shut down their operations by the legalization date of Oct. 17, when the only way to buy legal recreational cannabis in Ontario will be through the provincial government’s online portal. Story

Emergence of Canadian unicorns sparks momentum in angel investing

Jason Nagy began investing in Enthusiast Gaming Inc. in 2016 after hearing its pitch to an angel-investor group. But he didn’t expect an opportunity for a return so soon. The Toronto-based digital media company, which is devoted to video gaming and runs Canada’s largest gaming expo, plans to go public this year. A growing number of higher-net-worth investors are financing startups, often in exchange for ownership equity or convertible debt, but many are now becoming angel investors as part of a group instead of flying solo. Story

Dragons’ Den star Romanow’s seven tips for maximum productivity

Michele Romanow is used to getting things done. As the youngest venture capitalist on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, Ms. Romanow is constantly urging entrepreneur contestants to seize opportunities rather than wait for them to fall into their laps. She certainly practices what she preaches. At just 32, she is already on to her fifth business venture and sits on some corporate boards. She is constrained by the same 24 hours in a day that affect all of us and has developed a number of habits to ensure she gains maximum productivity. Story

WHAT WE’RE READING ELSEWHERE

Meal kit trend an opportunity for produce growers, entrepreneurs

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Paul de Jonge has never tried a meal kit delivery service. “I can’t imagine ever ordering one,” de Jonge said with a laugh. “I live on a farm and we’re surrounded by vegetables.” Still, the Lethbridge-area farmer recognizes a trend when he sees one. Like many small to mid-sized food producers in Alberta, de Jonge views the explosion in popularity of meal kits — subscriber services that deliver pre-chopped, pre-measured meal ingredients along with recipes straight to the customer’s door — as an opportunity. Recently, his Broxburn Vegetables business has become a supplier for Rooted Meal Prep, a Calgary-based vegetarian and vegan meal delivery service. Story

Trade war: Quebec cutting business taxes

The Quebec government is cutting payroll taxes for some businesses affected by the trade war launched this year by U.S. president Donald Trump. Premier Philippe Couillard said the aid package will cost the provincial treasury about $860-million over the next five years, but that it should stimulate billions of dollars worth of economic growth. Sales to the U.S. from the steel and aluminum industry have reportedly dropped since the U.S. imposed tariffs, but several other industries are affected. To offset that the government is boosting the investment tax credit for about 5,000 manufacturing companies, while payroll taxes for health services will be reduced by $260 million. Story

Company Is Offering ‘Fur-ternity Leave’ for New Pet Owners

A Minneapolis marketing company recently made tweaks to its employee benefits this summer, ranging from conventional to unusual. It gave workers a larger commuter stipend, as well as a reason to avoid the office altogether: “fur-ternity leave,” or the ability to work from home for a week to welcome new dogs or cats. “This is kind of a no-brainer,” said Allison McMenimen, a vice president at the company, Nina Hale, who helped devise the new policy. “The idea of offering benefits that just help keep employees at the office, that’s over.” Story

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