When capital, talent and ideas collide | The Sunday Briefing
50 years of evolution have set the stage for the current boom in BC tech.
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Today’s Briefing is 2,081 words, a 6 + 1/2-minute read. Enjoy!
Top Story: A coming of age for BC tech
BC’s tech sector has produced six billion-dollar companies in the past six months, including Canada’s top edtech platform (Thinkific) and one of the world’s most valuable blockchain businesses (Dapper Labs).
But this isn’t the province’s first tech boom, and industry watchers have been wondering: is this time for real? To answer this question, writer Paul Welsh spoke to both entrepreneurs and industry leaders who have experienced past boom cycles and are making headlines today.
To hear what he learned and understand what makes BC’s tech sector a 50-year overnight success story, read our 4,300-word special feature: ➞ Inside Vancouver's great tech evolution: An in-depth look at the history and promise of Vancouver’s tech ecosystem.
📰 The front page of decentralized finance
As a teenager, Victoria-based Mike Rowe was on the front page of news sites around the world for standing off against Microsoft.
Now, 17 years later and with $2.5 million in seed funds, his new company, Defined, is building what they’re calling 'the front page of decentralized finance'. Defined is building tools that enable people to harness live and historical data to transact across multiple blockchains and protocols. The company launched last week with funding from Boris Wertz (Version One Ventures), Andrew Wilkinson (Tiny Capital), Mark Cuban, Balaji Srinivasan and other investors.
To read about Rowe’s battle against Microsoft and what he’s working on now, check out our story: ➞ With 2.5M in seed funds, Defined is building the front page of DeFi
🍺 Canada’s first crypto beer?
Whistle Buoy Brewing recently released ‘NFT IPA’, what they’re calling a crypto beer, potentially the first of its kind in Canada and the world.
There are two parts to their innovation. There’s a piece of digital art, created by Victoria multimedia artist Ryan Steele, which lives on the blockchain and is available for auction on OpenSea—and then there’s an actual IPA beer hopped with Nelson, Flex, and Trident hops. (See what they did there?)
To learn what sparked the company’s interest in NFTs and what they’re planning next, read our story: ➞ BC's Whistle Buoy Brewing releases "Canada’s first crypto beer"
👩💻 Launch Academy expands programs, goes virtual
Launch Academy announced $120,000 in grants to supplement their LaunchPad program, which is in place to support entrepreneurs who are running newly launched ventures.
“Our LaunchPad program already supports entrepreneurs who are former Apple, Facebook, Google, and Cisco engineers, as well as former VCs, now turned entrepreneurs that have built award-winning products. We are excited to open up applications to the program to more entrepreneurs,” Launch Academy CEO Ray Walia told Vancouver Tech Journal.
Read the full story: ➞ Launch Academy announces $120,000 to expand LaunchPad program
🤑 Canada’s top VC quarter ever
Q1 2021 was the strongest quarter on record for VC investment in Canada with $2.7 billion invested over 175 deals in the first three months.
According to a report by the Canadian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA): There were 16 mega deals ($50 million+) in Q1, accounting for 67% of total dollars invested in the quarter. The average deal size was $15 million. And over 57% of the 175 deals in Q1 were less than $5 million, with most of these deals ranging between $1-5 million.
For additional data and insights, read our story: ➞ With $2.7B invested, Q1 is top quarter ever for Canadian VC investment
⏩ Quick takes.
The BC Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) Tech Pilot, which was set up to help companies address talent needs by providing a fast-tracked, permanent immigration pathway for in-demand foreign workers, was made permanent.
liv.rent a Vancouver rental platform, announced that its added bitcoin as a form of payment, allowing tenants to pay their rent with the cryptocurrency.
Construction in a digital world, a report from the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) and KPMG, identifies a significant opportunity for construction firms to adopt innovation.
Markus Frind, the Vancouver billionaire that built and sold Plenty of Fish and has since invested in Cymax Group and a winery, has now put $23 million into RVezy, an RV marketplace.
💵 Funding and deals.
Agtech firm CubicFarms raised $22 million to plow into R&D, grow its team and meet global product demand.
Named one of Agritecture’s most innovative vertical farming companies of the decade, the company recently added a slew of top-ranked executives to its team including business veteran Janet Wood and former Microsoft Vancouver GM Edoardo de Martin. ➞ Read more.
Hydra Energy appointed COO Jessica Verhagen to the role of CEO (replacing co-founder Simon Pickup) and raised $15 million from Just Business to convert existing heavy-duty trucks to run on green hydrogen.
The funding will help drive the development of Hydra's initial waste hydrogen capture plant in British Columbia, its fueling infrastructure, and conversion kits in the company's quest to make hydrogen transport a reality. The funding brings Hydra's total amount raised to date to $22 million. ➞ Read more.
The federal government, through its Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) agency, announced investments of $17.2 million into three BC technology firms.
Terramera Inc. in Vancouver receives $7.9 million for developing a soil carbon validation tool. Ecoation from North Vancouver receives $3.1 million for their Farming as a Service (FaaS) product. Axine Water Technologies Inc. in Vancouver receives $6.2 million for the development and demonstration of a second-generation, digitized wastewater treatment system. ➞ Read more.
Metaspectral, an AI insights startup, has been awarded over $300,000 in grant funding from the CleanBC Plastics Action Fund, which is funded by the BC Government and administered by Alacrity Cleantech.
Metraspectral will use this funding for the development of computer vision, artificial intelligence, and robotics designed to sort consumer waste, increase efficiency in processing materials and improve the quality of post-consumer recycled plastic.
PDFTron Systems Inc. announced a strategic growth investment from Thoma Bravo, a private equity investment firm focused on the software sector.
Last month, following a $71 million CAD investment last year, PDFTron acquired Colorado’s Windward Studios.
🗞️ More news to know.
TELUS Health, which has quietly become Canada’s largest provider of personal emergency response services (PERS), launched the TELUS Health Companion on Apple Watch.
The service leverages the fall detection and location sharing capabilities of Apple Watches to detect if a user has taken a hard fall, before determining if emergency support must be dispatched.
For more details on how this service works, read our brief report: ➞ Telus collaborating with Apple to launch emergency response wearables service
With foreign tech giants eyeing Canada, Clio CEO Jack Newton says his company has a massive hiring challenge ahead.
“With the tech boom that’s been happening in Canada, the U.S. and worldwide, the demand for tech talent is higher than it’s ever been … The hiring landscape has dramatically changed for Canada virtually overnight,” he said.
Milton Carrasco, the CEO of Richmond’s Transoft Solutions, is encouraging his employees to make a donation by the end of the month to COVAX—the global vaccine-sharing initiative—and he'll quadruple it.
Carrasco’s company has 170 people around the world, which has made him “particularly aware of the global reach of COVID-19, and how everyone will continue to be affected by it until vaccination is made available to all.”
Marketing solutions firm Wishpond reported record quarterly revenue with 74% year-over-year growth in Q1 2021.
In Wishpond’s first quarter as a public company, it also completed two acquisitions and raised over $8.0 million through a bought deal equity offering.
💡 Ideas and insights.
Tim Brady, CEO of Colligo, believes Microsoft Teams will win out versus Slack.
“Teams has been a greater beneficiary of the pandemic than Slack, and has become the tool CIOs intend on standardizing on, cementing its position as the incumbent in the collaboration/chat market,” he writes.
Nadia Tatlow, CEO of Victoria’s Shift, says The Future Of Work Isn't About Technology — It's About People.
“The importance of vulnerability and empathy has never been more crucial, and while there are many great tools to help nurture this,” she writes, “there is no substitute for a thoughtful, open-minded approach to each and every interaction — be it in person or on Zoom.
Denise Williams, CEO of the First Nations Technology Council, asks Will technology be the great digital age equalizer in Canada?.
In response to the fact that 13% of First Nations reserves don’t have access to 5 Mbps download speeds, she says, “This is not good enough. It points to the fact that we have built a telecommunications system in Canada that serves some very well and conversely does not serve others at all.”
Melanie Gaboriault, Head of Global Corporate Communications at Hootsuite, shared insights on the importance and implications of social media for government agencies while keeping security implications front and centre.
“Social media is at the heart of digital communication where citizens seek information and updates on government services,” she writes. “It is incumbent upon governments of all sizes to plan how they will serve citizens safely, securely, and successfully.”
Estefania Millan, product marketing coordinator at TTT Studios, shared Digital eCommerce Marketing Trends to Watch Out for in 2021.
“Although e-commerce has allowed businesses to stay open and generate revenue during this time, it has also taken away the personalized ‘human’ shopping experience,” she writes.
👔 People going places.
Michele Macready is joining quantum computing leader D-Wave as Senior Vice President, Software, Cloud and Professional Services, and Mark Snedeker joins D-Wave as Vice President, Professional Services.
The company also announced that Jennifer Houston was promoted to Chief Marketing Officer, and Mark W. Johnson, Ph.D., was promoted to Vice President, Quantum Technologies and Systems Products.
BrainStation is currently looking for instructors to teach their Professional Development certifications (casual positions) and add educators across all of their bootcamps, sales team and admissions in full-time positions.
Konrad, a global digital agency and innovation firm, is expanding its technology team to Vancouver. These roles will be based out of our Vancouver office on Granville Street. You can apply for one of the 30+ Vancouver roles here.
🧰 Startup toolbox.
The BC Tech Association (BC Tech) is now welcoming applications for its second HyperStart Entrepreneurial Bootcamp. Running over a four-week period, the free program will guide 25 budding entrepreneurs through the process of successfully setting up and launching their own businesses. The deadline for applications is Friday, Sept. 18.
🎧 A/V: Watch & Listen
Chris Hobbs, president of TTT Studios and host of the Afternoon T Podcast, joined Launch Academy’s Bits & Bytes Podcast.
Christine Bergeron, Vancity CEO and InBC chairperson, joined The BCBusiness Podcast.
Trulioo COO Zac Cohen joined the PayPod: The Payments and Fintech Podcast to discuss identity verification tools.
Eventbase CEO Jeff Sinclair joined the Afternoon T Podcast.
📅 Online events.
This Tuesday, June 1, 2021 | Vancouver Tech Morning Coffee, featuring Jason Billingsley, Co-Founder of Elastic Path and Zolo Realty.
June 8, 2021 | 2021 SMEs Economic Outlook, hosted by the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, and featuring Pierre Cléroux, Vice President, Research and Chief Economist, BDC and Bridgitte Anderson, President and CEO, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, among others.