Great scenery, businesses, and educational resources help Calgary startups stand out
Alberta’s largest city and the fourth largest in Canada, Calgary was the first Canadian city to host the Winter Olympics, in 1988. Energy (Alberta has huge oil reserves), financial services, transportation, film and TV, manufacturing, and tourism power the economy of this city near the Canadian Rockies.
Native people first settled in the area about 11,000 years ago, probably because the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers provided water and transportation. The Hudson Bay Company put their flag in the area in 1787, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police opened a post there in 1875, just before the railroad came in 1883. Now over 1.4 million live in the city and surrounding area.
One of Canada’s largest universities, University of Calgary, includes nearly 30,000 students, and leads more than a dozen post-secondary schools in the area. The startup stew of education, big business, and money simmers along quite well in Calgary.
1. Saguaro Resources, Ltd.
Recovering resources can be done with brute methods or with surgical precision. Saguaro Resources uses the latter, with unique technology improvements to horizontal drilling, multi-state completions, under-balanced drilling, and the like.
Starting operations in 2012, Saguaro’s technology received affirmation when Pine Brook Partners and Camcor joined together to make a private equity investment of $315 million.
2. Black Swan Energy
Oil-rich areas have plenty of energy and gas exploration startups. Black Swan Energy uses advanced technology to focus on unconventional resource exploration and development.
Jumping into the oil patch in 2010, Black Swan received a vote of confidence in December 2013 when Warburg Pincus, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and Azimuth Capital Management teamed up for a private equity placement of $150 million.
3. BluEarth Renewables Inc.
Hats off to a renewable energy company launching in an area surrounded by oil and gas companies. BluEarth Renewables is an independent producer of clean, renewable energy, big into wind, solar, and hydro generation facilities.
2010 saw the start of BluEarth as the renewable story kept growing worldwide. ARC Financial and Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan went in together in November 2014 for a private equity placement of $81 million.
One gotcha to recovering resources is the need for power to extract the resources you need to make power. Kineticor leads the way for on-site and off-grid power generation, often using the resource being recovered in clever new ways.
Starting in 2013, Kineticor received a private equity placement in August 2015 from Harbert Growth Partners in the amount of $80 million.
The workplace may be a great place for charity but not if management has to create and run a program. That’s why companies partner with Benevity to make donations and volunteering as easy as an app.
Founded in 2008 after the web had become ubiquitous and mobile devices were beginning to gain traction, the company self-funded until July 2015, with JMI Equity dropping a Series A check on them for $38 million in Canadian dollars.
6. FilterBoxx Water and Environmental Corp.
Sometimes people and businesses need water treated for drinking or to clean up waste water created by industrial processes. Either way, FilterBoxx can help. Mobile treatment options are included, such as a plant in a truck trailer.
Self-funding since beginning operations in 2001, the company reached $1 million in revenue by 2003. New technology brought investors with venture funding in September 2011 for $9 million, and $14.7 million in June 2014. So far, they have raised $23.7 million.
7. Zenith Epigenetics Ltd.
A clinical stage biotechnology company developing inhibitors for the treatment of cancers and other disorders, Zenith Epigenetics dives deep into new genetic research areas. The lead product in development treats solid tumors like those of prostate cancer.
Founded in 2013, a private equity placement of $8 million arrived in March 2014. In 2014 and 2015, they raised another $8.6 million after that first round. All placements came from undisclosed investors and now total $16.6 million.
Employee engagement may be the latest annoying buzzword, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. A corporate social network like Kudos can link workers, spotlight good employees, and lower turnover.
2010 was a big year for social networking companies with Facebook, Twitter, and others starting to appear. Kudos launched that summer, and received $375,000 in seed funding in May 2011 and another $680,000 a year later. Angel funds of $1.5 million came in July 2013, followed by another almost $3 million in April 2014. Let’s recognize a total of nearly $5.2 million for Kudos.
Wine is old, but BlackSquare‘s Blackboxx software is the only wine-specific e-commerce software that handles multiple languages, currencies, and locations, especially in the direct to consumer area. Expansion includes craft beer and boutique liquor sales as well.
In September 2010, $500,000 in seed money popped the cork for BlackSquare. One million dollars in angel funds followed in June 2012, $1.18 million in venture funds in September 2013, and in May 2016, $1.25 million in Series A money arrived. The full bottle total to date is $3.58 million.
Perhaps the famous Canadian friendliness helped Chaordix create software to develop analytics and predictive insights from crowdsourcing customers and prospects. The wisdom of the masses can be harnessed for companies with the right help.
Ahead of the curve in 2009, the company developed for customers and grew on their own until Yaletown Partners arrived in July 2012 with Series A funding of $1.5 million.