Top 10 tech startups taking over Toronto
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Photo courtesy: City of Toronto

North of New York City and a global city of multiple charms, Toronto includes a torrid startup scene.

The largest city in Canada, with over 2,733,000 polite citizens, Toronto is not far from New York New York in distance, style, global reach, and impact on its country of residence. Throw in all the TV shows and movies using Toronto as a stand in for every other big city in the Northern Hemisphere and you blur the lines even more.

A fairly old city for the New World, Toronto got on the map as Fort Rouille in 1750. In 1834 it became Toronto, and leveraged the port and proximity to its southern neighbor to grow fast, cultured, and diverse.

The five largest Canadian banks call Toronto home, as does the Toronto Stock Exchange. Big business and bigger money mean startups have funding opportunities here they may not have anywhere else. Startups need great ideas, of course, but they need great backers to really become successful.


Photo courtesy: Wealthsimple

We live in interesting technology times, as shown by Wealthsimple’s pitch to be “intuitive, affordable, and human,” on one hand and declaring investing made simple and affordable requires smart technology. But people regard mobile apps as humanizing, and big data analysis can easily power a friendly front end. So let the personality hide the processing and grow your portfolio.

Wealthsimple’s $5 million in estimated annual revenue started from $2 million in seed money a year after the company was founded. April 2015, and January and May 2017 saw multiple investors pony up $30 million, $15.3 million, and finally $37 million for a total of $84.3 million.


Photo courtesy: Wave

Only one in 20 businesses in the U.S. have more than $1 million in annual revenue, as good a measure as any for a small business. Who can affordably support the other 19 of 20 businesses? Wave can, with their SaaS-powered small business accounting software to handle invoicing, payments, payroll, and even lending. Software is free; clients pay for services like payroll and credit card processing.

Starting development in the middle of 2010, two small equity placements that year got them rolling to a seed round of $1.6 million in May 2011.Then investment after investment started rolling in, the last of which was $24 million in Series D funding in May 2017 (although one source says $32 million). After all these rounds, the total is plus or minus $80 million, a nice neighborhood.


Photo courtesy: Nymi

How do you prove you are you for security purposes? Fingerprints and retina scans are old hat, so Nymi bases your identity on your heartbeat, measured through their wristband. People can break your password, but not your heartbeat, so companies rely on the Nymi Band to control employee access to physical locations, computers, and even applications on those computers.

Beginning in 2011, Nymi toiled along without much publicity until their first seed round of $1.4 million in August 2013. A year later? $14 million, so development must have been going well. Now with about 50 employees generating around $5 million in annual revenue, Nymi has wrapped over $33 million dollars in investments into their wrist band.


Photo courtesy: Wattpad

Does everyone have a story inside them bursting to get out? According to Wattpad they do. The free app, started in late 2006, let’s people write, share, and discover stories in a huge range of genres and over 50 languages. Is your website sticky? Compare your metrics to Wattpad with 15 Billion minutes of engagement each month.

$67.5 million worth of Series, A, B, and C funding from some of the biggest players in the biz, such as Union Square Ventures, Khosla Ventures, and August Capital speak to the wide appeal of huge engagement numbers to investors.


Photo courtesy: ecobee

Home automation, long a staple of futurist articles if not actual product sales, may finally be ready to spread from early adopters to suburban homes nationwide. Now up to the ecobee4, the company has moved from smart thermostats to full home automation thanks to integration with products like Amazon Alexa and other smart home products.

Alexa integration came along with $35 million in Series C funding, bringing ecobee’s total up to about $51 million. Not bad for a company that started in early 2007 with $2.85 million from an undisclosed source. More investments came in January 2010 ($6.73 million) and August 2012 ($7.5 million) before the latest from the Amazon Alexa Fund.


Photo courtesy: Influitive

Who needs better leads to find new customers? Every single company in the world, that’s who. So Influitive focuses on helping large companies mine the prospect gold hiding in and as well as generating leads in other ways. Best of all? Clients pay for only real revenue growth.

Clients have been feeling that growth as far back as the fall of 2010. Not quite two years later, $3.75 million in seed money showered down, followed in five months by $7.3 million in Series A funding. A big Series B placement, came in July 2015, followed by $8.2 million in another Series B round in March of 2016. Annual reveneus are in the $12.2 million range.


Photo courtesy: Q4

Toronto hosts multiple large companies, leading startups to mine that market more than startups in the hinterlands. Q4 focuses on improving communications and providing intelligent solutions to the Investor Relations departments of Fortune 1000 companies the world over.

A complicated market like this takes time to penetrate. Starting in 2006, Q4 grabbed $1.8 million of venture capital in July of 2007. That funded the work they needed to get rolling, when Plaza Ventures plopped down $5 million in venture money in September 2014. That was followed by $22 million of Series B money in May of 2016 for a total of $28.73 million.


Photo courtesy: Rubikloud

Global retailers worth billions need help from small companies, believe it or not. Once great example is Rubikloud, a “leading machine intelligence platform for enterprise retailers.” Sans marketing speak? Rubikloud’s big data approach watches all transactions, online or off, and helps the retailer offer the perfect mix of products and prices to their customers.

Writing enterprise software means hyper-focus on a small but wealthy customer list. Helping boost the company in November 2013 after starting it March, Horizons Ventures put $1.5 million in seed money on the counter. They followed that with $7 million in January of 2015.


Photo courtesy: FreshBooks

Startups in Toronto seem to have a real soft spot for small business accounting. Another SaaS cloud-based startup, FreshBooks, helps not-quite-enterprises with invoicing, payment and credit card processing, expenses, and even time management.

Now cashing in about $10 million in annual revenue, FreshBooks started poor in 2003 and worked and worked acquiring one customer at a time. Finally the investment community took note, and Oak Investmtent Partners swooped in with $30 million of Series A funding in July 2014.


Photo courtesy: 500px

Remember photographs taken with electronic devices that don’t text and make calls? Photos with cameras to give you the quality we’ve forgotten about for the last decade? The folks at 500px remember them, and want to put them on display and available for sell. Sell or buy, long as the shot is amazing, 500px wants it.

Since the Web offers a few million more places to put ads every day, stock photos sell. From 500 PC, the estimated revenue is darn close to $7 million. This from one of many online photo services that started in the late 2000’s (2009 in this case). Seed funding of an undisclosed amount in May of 2011 was followed by Series A money of $525k in June, and another undisclosed amount in December. That happened a couple more times, then Andreesen Horowitz, one of six investors, clicked in with $8.8 million in August 2013. Visual China Group followed in July 2015 with another $13 million, bringing the total investment shot up to $22.3 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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