Exclusive: Five things you didn’t know about Vancouver tech unicorns
Discover how fast B.C.’s billion-dollar businesses got to $1 million in revenue, and other undisclosed details about their growth.
For many reasons, the past two years in Vancouver’s tech economy have been unprecedented. The evidence can be found in the number of stories Vancouver Tech Journal’s team found itself telling about newly born unicorns – companies valued at least $1 billion. Since December 2020, 13 B.C. businesses reached the valuation milestone – through private investment, acquisition, or initial public offering (IPO).
It was a staggering trend and garnered understandable attention, and yet, as we reported these stories and made sense of the news, a question remained: Do unicorns even matter? That inquiry is now doubly important in light of changing economic trends and mass tech layoffs. There’s no simple answer, but it’s worth looking at the numbers.
By many counts, there are more than 11,000 technology companies operating in B.C. That such a small number of businesses have reached the unicorn milestone indicates that it’s indeed a rare – and meaningful – achievement. What’s more, the total investment attracted to these businesses ($3+ billion) and the thousands of local jobs they’ve created (and tax revenues) demonstrate the value that these companies have brought to the local economy and ecosystem.
As part of reporting on these companies, Vancouver Tech Journal partnered with Innovate BC to investigate insights on the trajectory of these companies, tease out the keys to their growth, and itemize the public and private support they relied on. The following is a summary of the data gleaned from in-depth conversations we had with the founders, CEOs, and executives of these billion-dollar tech businesses.
Who did we talk to?
For the timeframe that this data covers – late 2020 to early 2021 – B.C. has generated nine “true unicorns” (private tech startups). They are the following: Clio, Dapper Labs, GeoComply, Nexii, Semios, Trulioo, Visier, Blockstream, and LayerZero Labs. The other companies that have reached a $1-billion-or-more valuation during this same period (and are often lumped together with these companies when referencing unicorns) are AbCellera (IPO), Thinkific (IPO), Copperleaf (IPO), and Galvanize (acquired at $1 billion).
We track all of these companies for our work, however, our data primarily focuses on these specific companies: AbCellera, Clio, Dapper Labs, GeoComply, Nexii, Semios, Trulioo, Thinkific, and Visier. Why these organizations? It’s simple: Their executives spoke to us earlier this year and shared exclusive data.
What’s known about these companies?
Let’s get the public information out of the way: Firstly, when it comes to B.C.’s billion-dollar businesses, there are no overnight success stories. It took an average of twelve years and nine months for these companies to achieve a valuation of at least $1 billion. Secondly, strong entrepreneurs played a significant role in that growth. Founders led more than 75 percent of the companies to their nine-figure valuations. Finally, M&A played a crucial role in these firms’ journeys to the top – at least seven of the 13 companies have made major acquisitions. Anyone can find these details online. What follows below are key data points that have until now never been revealed.