Top 10 tech startups in Ottawa capitalize on innovation
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Photo courtesy: OttawaTourism.ca

Canada’s capital and long-time technology hub mix old world charm with new world tech.

Over 1.3 million people call the Ottawa area home, making it the fifth-largest city area in Canada. Incorporated in 1855 but actually founded in 1826 under a different name, Ottawa regularly makes the list of most livable cities. Not just in Canada or North America, but the world.

Thanks to a number of universities and cultural institutions, the city’s population has earned the tag of “most educated” in Canada. National capitals become the focus of considerable financial and political attention, but rarely does that translate to innovation and creativity like is has in Ottawa.

While the Federal government employs the most people in Ottawa, over 1,800 technology companies employ over 63,400 people. Being the capital, financial companies abound. Being a large city, health companies also abound. Intertwine tech companies, financial investment, and excellent schools, and the result is often called “Silicon Valley North.” Or just call it Ottawa.

Shopify

Photo courtesy: Shopify

People love to shop online, and Shopify was one of the early companies that made that not only possible but profitable for small and medium businesses. They make enterprise-grade ecommerce tools available to small and medium businesses with good products but limited retail reach. Hook up with Shopify’s cloud-based system, and your reach becomes global.

The company started in June of 2004 when ecommerce was possible but problematic. Six years later, in December 2010, Bessemer Venture Partners was sold on a Series A placement of $7 million. Less than a year later, Series B funding of $15 million appeared. December 2013 was merry with $100 million in Series C funding for a total of $122 million. That war chest and Shopify’s success turned into an IPO on May 21, 2015.

Embotics

Photo courtesy: Embotics

All that hype about cloud-based and cloud-secure and cloud-magic? Somebody has to make those clouds work safely, security, and swiftly. One of those somebodies is Embotics and their vCommander product that helps private, public, and hybrid cloud owners create and control their cloud infrastructure.

The company, boosted by an undisclosed amount of Series A money, started development in December 2006. Once rolling, Covington Associates appeared bearing $4 million in Series B gifts in December 2008. Another $8.4 million of Series C money appeared in June 2012, followed by an undisclosed amount of debt financing, then a final Series D placement of $12.1 million for a total of $24.5 million.

Pythian

Photo courtesy: Pythian

With a tag line of “Love your data,” one gets the idea Pythian does big data support for big companies, and that’s exactly right. They even got started in big data before big data was a thing, and have grown their expertise and reach worldwide. Adding some sass to their product names, Pythian’s Analytics as a Service is labeled Kick AaaS.

Starting back in 1997 makes Pythian look like a senior citizen in tech, not a startup. But their expertise was ahead of the market, and two huge banks in Canada deposited $6 million in venture funds in the Pythian piggy bank in March of 2014. More recently, another $15 million in venture money arrived in May 2017. $21 million in venture money in the last three years qualifies them as a successful startup.

Ranovus

Photo courtesy: Ranovus

Sometimes startups live in the spotlight and sometimes their work is so technically-oriented they chug along out of sight and out of mind. One company that stays quiet but runs amazingly fast is Ranovus. Their single Quantum Dot Multi-Wavelength laser source pushes the bits to the next generation data center at 200 gigabits per second.

Beginning in 2012, when quantum dots were going from theory to almost imaginable, Ranovus took a year or and a half to convince funders out of $11 million in Series A money. Must have worked because 13 months later OMERS Ventures came back with another $24 million in Series B money.

Klipfolio

Photo courtesy: Klipfolio

Businesses need real time information to keep processes running smoothly and make corrections when they don’t. Thanks to Klipfolio, over 8,000 companies create custom dashboards to monitor any and every process in their business.

Founded in 2001, why is Klipfolio in this list of startups? Because the move to cloud services for data of all kinds refocused the company. $1.7 million in seed money appeared in February 2014, followed by $6.2 million a year later. Finally, $12 million in Series B funding brought the total to nearly $17 million.

TrueContext / ProntoForms

Photo courtesy: ProntoForms

Online shopping is cool, but the majority of B2B transactions happened in the real world. In other words, field sales people writing on forms, but now on tablets. That’s where ProntoForms comes in, with mobile device data collection and order processing.

Forms on mobile devices was double tough back when Prontoforms got started in 2001. But a seed funder thought they were worth $5.4 million and they were on their way. Series B funding of $7.6 million appeared in October of 2005. Then they got busy on smartphones and tablets and pivoted a bit and were rewarded by $1 million Post IPO Equity in March of 2014. September 2015 saw $3 million in Post IPO Equity, followed by another $4 million in August 2016.

Interset

Photo courtesy: Interset

Computer security by watching file mutations is old hat and ineffective as your total solution. The major thrust today is behavioral analytics leveraging big data and machine learning so your security system knows when something smells funny and stops it. Interset stakes out this effective but complicated ground in order to protect companies from outside hackers and inside traitors.

Interset started back in 1997, making them a gray haired security expert. But behavioral analytics and machine learning are the building blocks of startups so we reward their pivot with inclusion here. The $10 million in venture funding in March of 2015 also screams startup.

Assent

Photo courtesy: Assent

Whether you believe regulations choke innovation or weakened so companies can escape responsibility, compliance requirements get more involved each day. Add global supply chains and big data hassles and you need help from a pro. That’s when you call Assent for their Compliance Platform. Then you can tap into their 200,000 strong network of manufacturers to get a jump on compliance before the first product ships.

Assent spent years bootstrapping and growing under the radar before Volition Capital provided $10 million in venture funding. In fact, that placement in May 2016 came 11 years after the company opened their doors.

PageCloud

Photo courtesy: PageCloud

Websites need far more today than back when people could sling a little HTML code and put a site up with a banner, a photo or two, and long blocks of text. Now Web visitors demand video, audio, slick design, and integration to social media sites not yet known. That’s where PageCloud comes in.

Late to the game, PageCloud opened in September 2014 with $1 million in Angel funding. Six months later, another $2.2 million in seed money appeared, followed by another $4 million in November 2016 for a total of $7.2 million. That’s a slick financial design.

FarmLead

Photo courtesy: FarmLead

Farming may seem low tech, but not so much anymore. One area that can be improved by a jolt of technology? How the industry buys and sells the stuff we need to make food. FarmLead has started this important work by building what they call “North America’s Grain Marketplace.” The more transparent markets are, the more efficient they are.

Fairly new, starting in November 2013 officially, FarmLead actually received $250k of Angel money in January of that year. July 2015 saw another $668k, and the market gained traction to deserve $6.5 million in Series A funding in March, 2017, for a total just shy of $7.3 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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