👀 6 startups to watch | The Sunday Briefing

Plus, the entrepreneur building the Netflix of clinical trials.

Good morning and welcome to the new subscribers reading this Sunday—the fourth Sunday, but somehow, not the last of August.

I invite you to stay connected with us all week on InstagramTwitter and LinkedIn. Better yet, join us for coffee (in person) to chat all things Vancouver tech this Tuesday, August 24 between 8am-10am. As usual, the community will be meeting at The Birds & The Beets (outside tables) at 55 Powell St. in Vancouver. Please sign-up.

In this week’s Briefing, I’m excited to highlight the entrepreneur whose company is helping patients to better understand their diagnoses, six Vancouver tech startups poised to make a global impact and 38 other stories.

Today’s Briefing is 1,961 words, a 6-minute read. Enjoy!

-William, @notionport


Named after a last-ditch effort, Heal Mary is anything but.

“Hail Mary” has so many meanings that it has reached the upper echelons of Wikipedia fame: the disambigulation. There’s the Catholic prayer, the last ditch football pass and even a Soviet era film that brings punctuation into the fray in Hail, Mary! Data security folks likely tell stories around campfires, their faces illuminated by a flashlight, of the Hail Mary Cloud, a password intercepting interface that still roams the mean streets of the World Wide Web. But, after chatting with Cassandra Hui, the only worthy connection in my brain (or browser) will actually be Heal Mary, the well-crafted name of her healthtech startup. 

Heal Mary exists to empower healthcare patients to better understand their diagnoses. The company developed an application designed to connect patients, caregivers and doctors with clinical trials data from a global network of research. Armed with this powerful information, medical practitioners can lead their patients to the best possible health outcomes.

To learn more about Hui’s journey—a story of tragedy and then triumph—and how she pivoted her startup to help fight COVID in just 30 days, read this week’s cover story from James Matthews: Cassandra Hui is building the Netflix of clinical trials.


📡 Radar: 6 Vancouver tech companies to watch

Sean Azarshahi, a vice president with RBCx, a division of the Royal Bank of Canada, recently got in touch with Vancouver Tech Journal to share six companies he thought we should keep on our radar. After investigating them ourselves, we agreed—so we’re sharing the companies with you. ➝ Get the list.


⏩ Quick takes.


🤝 Funding and deals.

Canada Drives was founded in 2010 when UBC grad Cody Green, working for an auto retailer, noticed inefficiencies in the sales process when customers would choose a vehicle and then be declined for financing. 

He set out to help buyers get approved for financing in advance—and then realizing the scale of the problem and opportunity, he built an online platform as a solution. By 2016, the company he created had grown 2,703%, and in 2019, Canadian Business recognized Canada Drives as one of the country’s Best Managed Companies. 

Fast forward to 2021, and on the heels of a transformation in auto retail, a shift to sales instead of financing, and rousing growth, Canada Drives announced the close of $100 million in funding led by Honor Ventures with participation from KAR Global and other strategic investors. ➝ Get the full story.


Highstreet, a commerce-centred metaverse with a decentralized finance marketplace for limited-edition products, has raised $5 million in funding.

The funding round was led by Mechanism Capital, NGC Ventures, Palm Drive Capital, Cherubic Ventures, Jump Trading, GBV, Panony and Shima Capital. In addition, non-traditional investors included Encrypt Club, Mr. Blockand Miss Bitcoin. ➝ Get the full story.



🗞️ You should also know that…

Rival Technologies, a Vancouver-based market research operation, launched Canada’s first platform for recognizing, enabling and amplifying exceptional workplace culture.

Developed in partnership with the Angus Reid Institute and the Reframe Group, the Canadian Workplace Culture Index (CWCI) benchmarks Canadians’ attitudes towards their workplaces. ➝ Read our report: Cultural experiences combine with workplace culture for Rival COO Niamh Cunningham


Tafi, a leader in 3D digital art and avatar creation, has launched Tafi-Canada and is planning to open a Vancouver office in 2022.

“Vancouver is a world-class tech hub and is home to countless video game, tech, and visual effects studios," said Ty Duperron, chief operating officer at Tafi, who will helm Tafi-Canada studio development and hopes to accelerate the company’s growth by tapping into Vancouver’s talent pool of 75,000 workers. ➝ Get the full story.


Microsoft is taking over 20,000 sqare-feet of space, once occupied by Mobify (who was recently acquired by Salesforce), above Nordstrom in downtown Vancouver.

The Redmond-based giant will also be opening a 75,000-sqare-feet Gastown office at 155 Water Street where workers will focus on building applications in Intelligent Communications, Office, Azure, OneDrive, Web Experiences, and mixed reality.



The New Ventures BC Competition, presented by Innovate BC, spotlighted the final two of 26 promising startups: Moment Energy and Sarcomere Dynamics.


💡 Ideas and insights.

Roger Patterson, CEO of Later, shared ‘What Brands Can Learn From Creators About the Future of E-Commerce.’

“The next evolution of commerce is being led by a rising class of creators on social media who value community over conversion and turn followers into purchasers. They’re creating unparalleled experiences tailored to their fans (offers even reluctant consumers like myself can’t resist). And the approach is paying off, big time: the creator economy is estimated to be worth over $38 billion today,” he writes.


Marketing advisor Joel Hansen shared ‘Why You Shouldn’t Sleep On LinkedIn.’

“Even if you don’t post a lot, you should still have a pulse on what is going on in the ecosystem because it’s a hotbed of news that—when tailored correctly—can mean a lot to you and your business,” he writes. “If you don’t understand it, you’re going to be behind the ball on what’s evolving in hiring, education, and storytelling. And LinkedIn moves quickly. On the platform, there are 3 hires a minute, 57 million business accounts, and so many signals that you can act on ahead of competitors.”


An interview with Victory Square Technologies CEO Shafin Diamond Tejani.

When asked what he means by the fourth industrial revolution, he said: “…we kind of define it as the intelligence revolution. Where we’re seeing five multi-trillion-dollar innovation platforms all converging at once. This intelligence revolution is powered by AI (Artificial Intelligence), DNA sequencing, Robotics, Blockchain and Energy Storage, and each of these platforms creates breakthroughs and opportunities.”


Voxco’s Sarath Mantravadi, asked, ‘Can Bitcoin Replace a Bank?’

“Explaining to others is the best way to clarify your own thinking said, Feynman. There are many ways to explain what Bitcoin is and why its underlying Blockchain technology is highly promising. Since we all know what banks are and why they exist, building on that understanding is an effective way to understand Bitcoin,” he writes.


Sav Dhaliwal, chair of Metro Vancouver’s Board of Directors, argues that ‘Innovation needed from all sides to avoid climate disaster and grow B.C.’s economy.’

“The Metro Vancouver region’s burgeoning high technology sector, leading research universities and institutes, established hydrogen cluster, and standout firms in cleantech, mean we’ve got the right ingredients to be a global research, engineering, commercial, and export leader in tomorrow’s economy,” he writes.


👔 People going places.

  • Aydin Kilic joined HIVE Blockchain as president and COO where he will oversee all operational activities in Canada, Iceland and Sweden.

  • Miranda Alldritt was promoted to president of Copperleaf Technologies, leading sales, marketing, services, customer support, and operations for the United States, Canada, and Latin America.

  • Vancouver-based Melanie Pump joined Ottawa-based Brane Capital, a fintech firm, as chief financial officer.


🌐 More BC tech headlines from around the web.


🎧 Watch + listen.

How did Vancouver Tech Journal get its start? What makes Vancouver a great place to build a startup? Why do we need to give research institutions more credit for BC-developed innovation?

These are just a sample of the topics that I (William) get into on the latest episode of the Mind Your Biz podcast with host Mehul Gandhi. In a 45-minute show, we cover a lot of ground, including the state of Vancouver’s tech ecosystem; what happens when entrepreneurs exit and then re-invest into the ecosystem; and why the government should be transforming every industry into the tech industry. ➝ Get listening.



📅 Upcoming events.

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