Radar: Banking exec shares 6 Vancouver tech companies to watch

RBC's Sean Azarshahi believes these firms will make a "significant contribution to our communities regionally, nationally and perhaps globally."

Although I write about innovation every day, it’s not possible for me to know absolutely everything about BC’s 10,000-plus tech companies. Because of that, I love it when readers tip me off to companies I should check out—especially when the person making the recommendations show a genuine passion for the firms they’re boosting.

That was the case with Sean Azarshahi, a vice president with RBCx, a division of the Royal Bank of Canada. Azarshahi was in touch with me a few weeks ago to share six BC tech companies that he says will make a “significant contribution to our communities regionally, nationally and perhaps globally.”1 After investigating them myself, I happen to agree—so I’m sharing them with you.

In no particular order, here they are.


Photonic is developing a quantum computing platform built on the promise of silicon qubits. They’re “designing and manufacturing quantum technologies in silicon, the same material that powered the most disruptive technical revolutions of the past half-century,” the company notes online.

The company has “an incredible leadership team” according to Azarshahi, made up of chief executive Dr. Paul Terry (“a huge win”) and chief quantum officer Dr. Stephanie Simmons (“a very well accomplished physicist”). “I feel that this company will rocket within the next 2 to 3 years,” said Azarshahi.

HTuO Biosciences

HTuO Biosciences is looking to make the process of designing drugs faster and more efficient. They want to make it possible to target proteins that are currently outside the scope of traditional drug design—all while making it cheaper to bring those drugs to market. “The current basis of molecular modelling is based on 1970’s technology and this small company will change all that,” said Azarshahi. Of note: The co-founder and CEO of the company, Anthony Fejes, was also a co-founder and CTO of Zymeworks, noted Azashahi. “He is the real deal.”


ViewsIQ is a medtech company that’s developing software that enables laboratories to digitize pathology samples, while still using their existing hardware. “Companies can incorporate Panoptiq into their labs in a day and the scan will be uploaded to the cloud where various technologies such as AI and machine learning can process the scans,” explained Azarshahi. Ultimately, the tech is meant to save time and money for laboratories and hospitals. The company is led by Herman Lo, an entrepreneur known for more than his innovation: Lo also happens to be a professional violinist.

Variational AI

Variational AI is an AI company that’s focusing on the drug discovery of small molecules.  “Specifically, they target drugs that have failed, and then they look into them to see if they can reconfigure them to have efficacy and/or safety,” according to Azarshahi. “Their team came from D-WAVE’s Quadrant AI team when D-WAVE closed that division.” A board member for AInBC, the company’s co-founder and CEO, Handol Kim is “very well respected in the AI industry,” according to Azarshahi. Variational AI has been busy locally, with partnerships with biotech platform adMare and Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster. 


Theory+Practice is an AI-focused consultancy that helps companies with data analysis and strategies, automated and integrated AI, and behavioural economics—“a very cool multifaceted AI company,” according to Azarshahi. Co-founder and CEO Rogayeh Tabrizi studied experimental particle physics at Simon Fraser University and worked on the ATLAS Detector at CERN. Tabrizi is also involved in the BC AI ecosystem as a board member with AInBC.


Ideon is a cleantech company that was born from Triumf’s commercialization program. “It’s an amazing technology that no one else really is doing or is as far as Ideon is in their commercialization of muons purposed for drilling,” said Azarshahi. Essentially, the company provides x-ray-like imaging to explore beneath the Earth's surface. “This technology could have a colossal impact globally on all exploration and drilling,” added Azarshai. Last year, the company raised $1.3 million in seed funding from investors including the University of British Columbia (UBC)'s Seed Fund. The company is led by Gary Agnew, a former Finning Digital executive.


Got a list of companies you think we should keep on our radar, drop me a line (william@vantechjournal.com) or tweet at me (@notionport).


Note: Azarshahi asked me to emphasize that these are companies that he is aware of and believes are interesting, and they do not necessarily have any relationship with RBC.