The little city that could, Waterloo is making tech-savvy hipsters check themselves before they wreck themselves. A tech-saturated Canadian city that’s boasting the densest startup population outside the Valley, the Waterloo-Kitchener-Cambridge tri-city is already pushing the national government to throw down $3 billion for a new high-speed rail between the region and Toronto for all the foreign venture capitalists who want to invest.
Kik.com earned the city’s first $1 billion valuation earlier this year, pumping speculation as to which company could be next to grab that headline. Here are 10 of those candidates. If you can think of another company in Waterloo that deserves a profile, suggest it in the comments.
A smartwatch for people who hate smartwatches, Pebble is legendary as a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $10 million in 2012. Instead of worrying about the emergence of the Apple Watch, the company still offers a battery that lasts an entire week vs. Apple’s 24 hours. It’s the brainchild of Eric Migicovsky, a former systems design engineer at Blackberry’s manufacturing headquarters in Waterloo. He recently launched a second Kickstarter for a new product — this time crossing the $20 million threshold.
2. Thalmic Labs
Focused on smart wearables that recognize gestures as signals, Thalmic Labs has raised over $15 million — $14.5 million of it in Series A in June 2013 from Intel Capital and Spark Capital. Its Myo armband hopes to outdo Tony Stark’s engineering haven in terms of seamless computer control. The company was co-founded by CEO Stephen Lake, Matthew Bailey and Aaron Grant. Lake was named one of Canada’s Top 20 Under 20 in 2007.
The company offers a navigation solution for event spaces like pointing out vendor and exhibitor kiosks. It provides crisp 3D imaging and offers special branding with its customizable API. MappedIn goes back to 2012 but has doubled its initial investment so far in 2015, including $1.5 million in seed funding in March which doubled its initial backing.
Sortable markets a “decision-making engine” to compare and recommend purchases of appliances and software. It also utilizes machine learning to shift the focus of your ad networks automatically to aim at the best performing channels. They’ve already founded or acquired 30 content sites including Iron Rank, Geekaphone and Snapsort. The company purports over $500,000 in angel funding and at least $1 million in total funding according to the Velocity Incubator.
Vidyard markets itself as the world’s leading video marketing platform that offers software to host and analyze video performance. Initially a senior year design project at the University of Waterloo, the company broke out with $1.65 million in seed funding in 2011. They’ve gone over $25 million in four rounds with a major Series B led by Bessemer Venture Partners in January 2015.
Perhaps one of the more obvious business ideas you’ve never thought of, TritonWear is a wearable that gives real-time performance metrics to swimmers. It’s an invaluable tool for training, water resistant for swimmers, and measures over a dozen stats, including pace, turn time, speed, stroke count, breath count, and kicks underwater, among other things. They scored $1 million in seed funding in January 2015 from the MaRS Accelerator Fund, Real Ventures and list of angel investors, such as Mike Stork, Jay Shah, and Aditya Bali.
Another spin-out from the University of Waterloo, SparkGig is a new platform for live performers and organizers that sorts users by skill: emcees, pianists, dancers, guitarists, violinists, quartets, DJs, magicians, singers, speakers, harpists (yes, harpists) and of course, bands. It’s kind of like what Myspace has tried to do in reimagining itself, except with more press and enthusiasm. It was co-founded by CTO Samuel Yuan, Designer Jessica Ho, CEO Desmond Choi and CFO Adrian Wong.
Representing the Canadian edtech community, Kaizena is a platform that gives students continuous, sometimes interactive and more detailed feedback on their work from their teachers. Kaizena brought in over $900,000 in seed funding from the NewSchools Seed Fund, Horizons Ventures, and a few angels, including Umang Gupta, (VP Oracle, CEO Keynote), Jeff Weiner (CEO, LinkedIn), Tom Williams (Better Company) and Victor Alcantara (Mountain 7).
If you’re sick and tired of Google’s local analytics, then you want to check these guys out. PiinPoint offers analytics visualization for targeting local customers, channels real estate listings for physical outlets, and even predicts sales performance in new locations. PiinPoint has an undisclosed amount of money from Y Combinator, though Velocity says the company has passed the $1 million mark. The company was founded by Jim Robeson and Adam Saunders.
A social network designed for athletes, PumpUp is meant to inspire and motivate. It’s also a way of quietly pushing all the mirror selfies and super salad Instagram posts to a place that is more tolerant. If you want to find more Crossfit enthusiasts and go to #beastmode, this is the place to get linked up. Their app is available for iOS and Android devices. If you are bewildered at how social networks raise money, gawk at the $2.64 million in funding that founders Phil Jacobson and Garrett Gottlieb have gotten from sources like General Catalyst Partners (whose name I imagine is a totally coincidental protein reference). Other investors include Communitech, Azure Capital, Relay Ventures and several angels: Mike Stork, Steve Gilpin, Jim Estill, and Marc Altshuller.