Top 10 tech startups packed into Vancouver
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Photo courtesy: ecstaticist via Flickr

Photo courtesy: ecstaticist via Flickr

Scenic, smart, sea port, and sustainable do a good job of describing Vancouver and the startup scene

Some may call Vancouver the Canadian Seattle, since it’s just north of Washington state. But those who love the city know it’s not copying anyone. The densest city in Canada thanks to a reliance on residential high rises in lieu of suburban sprawl, Vancouver is the third largest city in Canada, with a total of nearly 2.5 million people in the metropolitan area.

Frequently named one of the most livable cities in the world (something it does share with Seattle), Vancouver has stood on the world stage multiple times, such as when the city hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics. Five public universities in the area prepare students for technical careers and many start tech businesses.

Also nicknamed Hollywood North for all the TV shows filmed in the area to take advantage of Canadian tax breaks, media savvy helps their tech startups as well. Sustainability ranks high in Vancouver, a field rife with tech startups.

1. Hootsuite

Photo courtesy: Hootsuite

One of the first and still most popular “meta-media” players, Hootsuite makes it possible to juggle a variety of social media accounts without dropping balls right and left. Social media control is difficult, but with Hootsuite thousands of paying customers find that it’s relatively painless.

Starting not long after the iPhone appeared, Hootsuite opened their doors in November 2008, just as social media was finding its footing. In 13 months, they pulled in $1.9 million in Series A funding. Four rounds and 10 investors later, their total financing to date is $246.9 million from investors like Accel Partners and Fidelity Investments.

2. Zymeworks

Photo courtesy: Zymeworks

Big cities with multiple universities and hospitals sprout medical startups. Zymeworks plans to greatly improve biotherapeutics. Utilizing the body’s own defenses, Zymeworks targets biospecific antibodies. Another frontier? Protein engineering.

Founded on April 1, 2004 (no fooling), Zymeworks stayed under the radar until March 2008 with an angel investor flew in with $1.3 million in funding. A bit more than a year later, CTI Capital arrived with $3.2 million and another $8.1 million in September 2011. A total of eight funding rounds have backed Zymeworks with $125.87 million in financing. The company went public in May 2017 at $13.00 per share and gathered $58.5 million in gross proceeds.

3. BuildDirect

Photo courtesy: BuildDirect

How does a company that launched in 1999 in the home improvement market count as a tech startup? Because BuildDirect stayed quiet and “in the kitchen,” so to speak, for years then turned up the heat with $16 million in venture money in June 2012, 13 years after the door opened. Why? The BuildDirect Home Marketplace and the new Gateway Supply Chain upended the traditional market.

After their initial venture funding, $4 million followed in October 2012, $13 million a year later, $30 million in Series B in January 2014, and finally $50 million in December of that year. They raised $110.27 million in total once they got tech-i-fied with their online design tools.

4. Visier

Human relations managers may be the butt of many jokes, but they need workforce analytics to improve. From hiring to discipline to training to outplacement, HR people need data, not hunches, on which to base their serious employee decisions. That’s why they rely on Visier.

Opening their cloud-based doors in March 2010, Visier pulled in $6 million in Series A funding in September 2011. Another $15 million arrived in May 2013, $25.5 million in Series C in June 2014, and in March 2017, $45 million in Series D.

5. Indochino

Photo courtesy: Indochino

Can a suit maker be considered a hi-tech startup? Yes, if that maker is Indochino. They are disrupting the custom-suit business with websites, online custom measuring options, and free shipping over $150 and easy returns. Bespoke suits are no longer only for the golden and are now affordable for the geeky.

Starting with an undisclosed amount of venture funding in January 2007, Indochino grabbed $250,000 in April 2008. Starting in March 2011, the company received Series A, B (March 2013), and C (March 2016) funding rounds for $4 million, $13 million, and $30 million respectively: That sounds like a hi-tech venture company to us.

6. Vision Critical

Photo courtesy: Vision Critical

You have customers, but how much do you really know about them? If you work with Vision Critical, you will know a lot more. Sparq is the customer insight engine that organizes your customers into loyal friends. That means they’re ready to provide feedback much faster and more reliably than the traditional customer survey drudgery.

Consumer research companies have been around for a while, and Vision Critical started in 2000. Their first two funding rounds raised undisclosed amounts in November 2004 and 2005. Finally seeing some traction, Wellington Financial dropped $3 million on them in October 2006. More breakthroughs triggered renewed interest, and OMERS Ventures flew in with $20 million in August 2012. Two more venture rounds helped them raise $41.39 million in total funding to date.

7. Bench

Small businesses need all the same accounting depth and detail as a multi-national but have far fewer people. Bench offers online bookkeeping for small businesses with a personal touch and a dedicated team to help when clients get too deep in the weeds. They even do the data entry grunt work for you.

Starting as 10sheet in 2012 with a $100,000 convertible note, a little over a year later the company’s development work was rewarded with $2 million in seed money. Six months later, $1 million in venture funding arrived followed by three more rounds, raising their total financing to date to $32.85 million in six rounds from a dozen investors.

8. Tasktop

Photo courtesy: Tasktop

Big cities full of software developers create a vacuum of enabling tools and services. Tasktop filled one of those gaps by improving management and workflow of the software development process using a new suite of tools. Programming started as a solo endeavor, but now it’s team-time all the way, with dozens and hundreds of programmers working on a single project.

Beginning in January 2007, Tasktop kept their heads down and fingers coding with little recognition for years. Programming tools come and go, but in June 2014, Yaletown Partners and Austin Ventures decided the company had $11 million worth of good ideas. AVX Partners jumped in in April 2017 with $15 million in Series B money.

9. Trulioo

Photo courtesy: Trulioo

Who are you? Can you prove it to someone? Trulioo can, and can demonstrate that capability on over 4 billion people in over 60 countries. The company offers instant electronic identity and address verification for clients. Get their API and know your prospects in a flash or use their web tools.

Research started with $300,000 in seed money and Trulioo was founded a year later. In May 2012, $2 million more seed dollars arrived, followed by $6 million in March 2014 and finally $15 million in December 2015.

10. Wiivv

Photo courtesy: Wiivv

You’ve had your feet since you were born, but you’ve never had a shoe fit perfectly. Enter Wiivv, a bionics startup that creates custom 3D printed footwear, orthopedics, and gear. Their trick? Using body-perfect capture technology via your smartphone. Wiivv makes humans more durable.

And the company has been durable, even if young. Starting in the summer of 2014, within a year they stepped into $500,000 worth of seed money, followed by $3.5 million a few months later in December 2015. Three more rounds and some equity crowdfunding for custom-fit sandals boosted their total investment to date to $12.22 million.

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James Gaskin

About James Gaskin


James writes books, articles, and jokes about technology, and consults for those who don't read his books and articles.

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