11 Canadian tech companies to watch in 2017

Kevin Sandhu GROW

Last year, I wrote an article about the 11 Canadian tech companies to watch in 2016, which highlighted tech companies of all sizes in Canada that were ready to make headlines over the following 12 months. The great part about most predictions is that people tend to forget about them by the time your prognostication should have matured. My friends at BetaKit didn’t let me off that easy, though. You can read my assessment of last year’s predictions here to see how my crystal ball stacked up.

For 2017, I wanted to avoid simply pointing out those who will drive headlines in the coming year, but rather focus on a handful of companies that I feel will make significant strides in 2017 (and hopefully well past that!). Once again, I couldn’t find a way to whittle the list down to 10, so here are the 11 Canadian tech companies to watch in 2017:


League

League is a new digital alternative to traditional health insurance that connects employers and employees to a comprehensive network of health services and benefits, giving them unparalleled choice, convenience, and value.

2016 was a busy and productive year for League, which raised an impressive $25 million USD Series A (in addition to their previous $4 million seed) and launched a partnership with RBC to expand on insurance offerings.

Mike Serbinis, CEO of League, announced his master plan at the end of 2016 to turn League into a billion-dollar company by 2018 and that he would be raising more funds for League in 2017. There’s only going to be a small handful of “insurtech” companies that succeed, but those that prevail are going to do so in remarkable fashion. I would not be surprised if Serbinis reaches his three comma goal.

Thalmic Labs

Creators of the Myo armband, Thalmic Labs had an incredibly productive 2016. They raised $158 million CAD for their series B financing to “reimagine human-computer interaction for its Myo armband.”

CEO Stephen Lake also announced that it’ll be opening a 50,000 square foot factory in Waterloo and employing over 100 people. I’m going to keep a keen eye on anything that can get civilization closer to the gestural controls utilized by Tom Cruise as he manoevered content around glass computer screens in Minority Report. (In reality, Myo can already do much cooler things.)

Zoocasa

There are certain industries where technology is just starting to scratch the surface of disruption, and real estate is one of them. Since taking over the online real estate brokerage from Rogers Communications, and raising $1.35 million, Zoocasa has hit the ground running.

While Zoocasa’s current business model is using technology to improve the home buying experience, they are not completely removing the human broker. This puts them in a great position to build traction in an industry that’s still trying to figure out what the future will mean for availability of data. One thing I am confident in: this team is a safe bet for building a successful business around Canadian real estate. Just look at what they’ve done with RateHub and Scholarhood!

Top Hat

Top Hat’s cloud educational platform leverages mobile technology to turn classrooms into interactive learning experiences. As one of Canada’s fastest growing companies, Top Hat was listed at number 18 in Deloitte’s Fast 50, growing its revenue by a gigantic 607 percent in 2016.

The company hired its first chief marketing officer at the end of 2016, recruiting Nick Stein (former VP of marketing at Vision Critical) into its leadership team.

2017 looks to be another year of strong growth for Top Hat as it expands its platform into more classrooms and universities across the country and the world.

Influitive

Influitive helps companies mobilize their advocates to produce massive increases in referral leads, reference calls, social media participation, and more.

With the swarm of capital pouring into startups beginning to die down, this change in focus from rapid growth to profitability will fuel Influitive’s success in 2017.

In 2016, they led an additional Series B funding round of $8.2 million, topping their total investments to nearly $50 million. They also acquired Ironark and TriggerFox to strengthen their team and technology offerings. Influitive hit their speed bump in the summer of 2016, laying off 13 percent of their staff to focus on sustainability.

With the swarm of capital pouring into startups beginning to die down, I think this change in focus from rapid growth to profitability will fuel their success in 2017 with a sharper focus than ever.

Eventbase

Eventbase is a world-leader in event technology and apps. From Sundance to the Olympics, Eventbase technology and staff powers many of the world’s biggest events. In 2016, they announced they were hiring 100 new employees in Vancouver. They raised an $8 million Series B at the end of 2015, led by Seattle-based venture capital firm Madrona Ventures.

Already in 2017, one of the biggest technology focused events in the world, CES, has used Eventbase to help their attendees make the most of their conference experience.

360insights

From Whitby, Ontario, 360insights is the originator of the channel success platform, the first truly integrated software-as-a-service platform to enable brands to optimize their partner marketing and consumer incentive spend.

They recently announced a $30 million funding round led by US venture capital firm Sageview to accelerate its growth operations. Its dedication to creating great culture at a growing company outside of the typical Canadian tech hubs, and its ability to harness analytics to improve the incentive and rebate industry will make 360insights worth talking about throughout 2017.

Askuity

Askuity is a retail analytics platform from Toronto. They raised a $2 million Series A round led by dunnhumby Ventures in early 2016. As the blend of offline and online retail converges, and analytics continues to play an incredibly big role in shopping, Askuity is bound to meet huge growth and opportunities in 2017.

Drop

Drop founder Derrick Fung, who is most well known for his venture Tunezy, launched a Canadian FinTech company in Toronto to focus on customer loyalty. He raised nearly $1 million to date and has already formed partnerships with companies such as Wealthsimple, Foodora, Chefs Plate, Urbery, Thirstie, Carnivore Club, and FanXchange. Given Fung’s recent success at starting, growing, and exiting a startup, I imagine Drop is going to waste no time in asserting itself in the Canadian startup landscape.

Bench

Bench Accounting helps small to medium-sized businesses with all of their accounting operations. Bench raised a $20 million series B led by Bain Capital Ventures and more than doubled its team to over 230 in Vancouver in 2016.

Bench recently announced an integration with Canadian ecommerce company Shopify to help merchants with online bookkeeping. This exemplifies the two things I like seeing most from Canadian startups: punching above their weight on an international scale, and teaming up with fellow Canadian startups.

Hopper

Montreal-based Hopper, a mobile app that analyzes and predicts airfare, has secured an $82 million Series C in 2016.

Over 18 million trips have been booked with Hopper and the company plans using its recent funding to increase its employee count from 40 to 120 in Montreal and Cambridge. As Hopper continues to grow in 2017 by helping people save money on their airfare, their investments from Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Brightspark Ventures, Accomplice, OMERS, Investment Québec, and BDC Capital will serve as a great example of the impact being made by Canadian institutions (government and pensions) in fueling Canadian tech.

Kevin Sandhu

Kevin Sandhu

Founder and CEO of @PoweredByGrow, a Canadian FinTech company that is improving people’s financial wellbeing using technology and data. Also an occasional road cyclist, amateur cook and general misfit.

  • Emma

    I know betakit is focused in Toronto but would be great to see a wider array of companies from across Canada (instead of 8 Toronto, 2 Vancouver and 1 Montreal). A lot is happening everywhere from the maritimes to Vancouver that should be highlighted!

    • http://www.betakit.com/ Douglas tr0n Soltys

      Typical Toronto bias from Kevin (who is based in Vancouver!). We’ll make sure to give him the business over it.

    • http://www.betakit.com/ Douglas tr0n Soltys

      Also, as much as Stephen Lake wants rapid transit to and from TO, Thalmic is very much a Kitchener-Waterloo company. Only saying this as he nailed me last week for incorrectly calling Maluuba a MTL company. Dude reps the kdubs hard.

  • http://www.betakit.com/ Douglas tr0n Soltys

    Worth noting that only 3 of Kevin’s 2016 companies to watch were from GTA (http://betakit.com/11-canadian-tech-companies-to-watch-in-2016/).

  • Vasant Kumar

    This isn’t a list of startups to watch. This is a list of startups people are already watching.

    Would love to see a list of seed/pre-seed startups that have a chance to make it big.

    Naborly, Plooto, InkBox, Format, Roadmunk, and others are all on this list.

  • Nima

    Great! more apps, we are so needing apps right now, its crazy.

  • Amanda M.

    Unbounce is another one to watch…their leadership team has been focused on building a sustainable business (14th fastest growing tech company in Canada in 2016) and a highly engaged team (4.9/5 stars on Glassdoor). It definitely shows.