The Index: 5 tech companies based in Strathcona
It’s not Mount Pleasant or Gastown, but there are some firms making themselves known in Strathcona.
Here at Vancouver Tech Journal, we like to highlight and profile companies in the city that are doing interesting things or have compelling stories to tell. Often, those firms just happen to have home bases in neighbourhoods like downtown Vancouver or Mount Pleasant (if they have home bases at all).
It can be a little harder finding tech businesses stationed in other areas of the city. Like, for instance, Strathcona. The East Van ‘hood isn’t thought of as a tech hub, but we were able to cobble together a list of companies that call the area home (and we only fudged the borders a little bit). This list is by no means exhaustive, and if you think of any that we missed let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The skinny: While it can be argued whether or not the renowned furniture e-tailer is even a tech company, it’s probably the most obvious name on this list given that its massive office space overlooks one of the area’s more notorious landmarks in Strathcona Park.
Launched in 2013, Article has made it increasingly hard for Canadians (and many other people of different nationalities) to avoid paying a premium for their couches, mostly because they make very good ones.
Recent news: Though the company seemed set to IPO in December of 2021, The Globe and Mail reported last month that those plans were postponed. Article’s last funding round was a Series B back in 2017.
Words of inspiration: “Business has grown a whole lot more wilder than I would have ever dreamed…It’s really a validation of the underlying proposition and the focus that we brought in delivering an end-to-end customer experience that’s a lot more convenient, a lot more valuable to the end customer. That’s given us a lot of confidence to continue going forward.” - Article co-founder and CEO Aamir Baig in 2019 after his firm was named the fastest-growing company in Canada two years in a row by Canadian Business magazine. (Article dropped down to fifth in 2020, slackers.)
The skinny: MIT engineering grad Matt Harper and a couple fellow engineers started Avalon Battery in 2013 in Harper’s hometown of Vancouver to more effectively utilize vanadium flow batteries. In 2020, the company merged with London’s RedT Energy to become Invinity and Harper, the former president of Avalon, is now the chief commercial officer of Invinity. Luckily for him, Invinity kept its Vancouver base—conveniently sandwiched between two breweries in Andina and Powell.
Recent news: The company, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, recently announced a project in Chappice Lake, Alberta in which it will install a vanadium flow battery system to support 40,000 solar panels in the area. The project will reportedly supply zero-carbon electricity equivalent to the demand of 7,000 people.
Invinity also raised USD $33 million in November of last year through an oversubscribed share placing.
Words of inspiration: “They literally could have done a deal with any battery manufacturer in the world,” Harper told BCBusiness about his company’s deal with German manufacturing giant Siemens. “We started to work with them about three years ago on a demonstration product. They tested our battery; it did everything they wanted; they stress-tested it, it didn’t break.”
The skinny: Nimbus isn’t technically a tech company—it’s a VC firm that invests primarily in health tech businesses. It’s also not technically in Strathcona—Google Maps’ general guidelines have it a block or so into Chinatown—but hey, we’re going to go with close enough on both counts here, so sue us (please don’t actually do that).
Recent news: Nimbus CEO Paul Geyer was one of the investors into apparel tech Stoko’s $6 million raise last July. Nimbus was also the lead investor in UBC-based liver health tech outfit Sonic Incytes’ USD $7.3 million Series A round in December.
Words of inspiration: It takes a certain amount of, um, chutzpah, to reference yourself when asked for your favourite quote, but that’s exactly what Geyer did in this Business in Vancouver profile. You have to admire it. And hey, it’s hard to argue with the quote itself: “Learn lots, have fun, be successful and do good.”
The skinny: After leaving a firm he founded in Vision Critical, Andrew Reid bounced back with Rival Technologies in 2018. Rival bills itself as the “world’s best mobile market research platform.” With over 100 employees and some high profile clients, that distinction might not be far off.
Recent news: The company launched Canada’s first platform for recognizing, enabling and amplifying exceptional workplace culture in August of last year and was nominated for Tech Culture of the Year at the 2021 Technology Impact Awards.
Reid could also be seen recently doing some handy work on the company’s office.
Words of inspiration: “My style of leadership is: hire really smart people, set strategic goals, then give them a ton of room to go and run. I’m not a micromanager. I'm not a control freak. That probably gets me into trouble sometimes. But, for the most part, it means that I trust my people.” - Reid to VTJ last October
The skinny: This list might look a whole lot different in a few years as Great Northern Way continues to be built to the sky (including the addition of EA’s expansion office in the former MEC HQ). But just a couple blocks away from GNW, Thinkific has quietly called Terminal Avenue home for awhile now. We say quietly because the online education platform, which was originally started in 2012, has been mostly remote since the pandemic.
Recent news: It’s been quite literally an up and down journey for Thinkific since the company IPO’d in April of last year. After reaching highs of $18.50 a share on the TSX in June, the stock bottomed out this January, falling to about a third of its original value.
Words of inspiration: Despite the stock dip, some analysts still believe there’s reason to back the company in the future. “Thinkific’s shares are attractive, and should be purchased on further weakness,” wrote CIBC Capital Markets analyst Todd Coupland last year.