Venture funding in Alberta’s tech sector has grown for the third quarter in a row, defying the national downward trend and propelling the province ahead of Toronto and British Columbia in terms of dollars raised.
According to briefed.in’s latest report, startups in Alberta raised $225.5 million in the first quarter of 2023. This represents a 30 percent increase in investment from the previous quarter and a 10 percent increase year-over-year (all dollar figures are in CAD).
Alberta, a relatively small player in the Canadian tech arena, attracted more venture capital in terms of dollars raised than any other region tracked by briefed.in, aside from Québec. In fact, Alberta saw almost double the investment of Toronto, which typically draws in the majority of venture funding in Canada. Alberta is also the only ecosystem tracked by briefed.in that saw both quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year increases in investment in Q1 2023.
The majority (60 percent) of funding in Alberta during the quarter was raised by one company. In February, Edmonton-based operations-management software startup Jobber closed $133.7 million in Series D financing.
One of the round’s participants said the deal was an up round for Jobber. While most other Canadian tech startups have faced a tough macroeconomic climate that has made it difficult to attract new customers or raise at favourable valuations, Jobber doubled the size of its customer base and tripled its revenue since its last funding round.
If it were not for Jobber’s late-stage deal, tech funding in Alberta would have declined on both a quarterly and a yearly basis in Q1 2023, according to briefed.in’s data. This trend has been consistent in the province for the past year, with deals raised by a small number of major companies like Neo Financial and Symend accounting for a substantial portion of the total venture funding in a given quarter.
Still, James Lochrie, partner at Calgary-based Thin Air Labs, is confident that these deals are not one-off wins for the province, but will make a lasting impact on the evolution of Alberta’s tech sector.
“I look at what happened in Toronto a decade ago. When ventures like Chango, Wattpad, Shopify, and Wave emerged and attracted significant foreign VC investment, it spread confidence across the entire ecosystem, which allowed entrepreneurs, investors, and policymakers to become more aggressive in company formation and growth,” Lochrie said.
The missing seeds
While Jobber’s round gave Alberta venture funding a boost in Q1 2023, deal volume in the province remained low on a year-over-year basis. The total of seven deals closed during the quarter was up from the five reported deals in Q4 2022, but down 65 percent from the same quarter last year.
“The macro environment is definitely playing a role in deal volume, as we have seen ventures extending runway, delaying fundraising, or taking longer to pull their rounds together,” Lochrie said.
According to briefed.in’s data, a total of four seed-stage deals closed in Alberta during the first quarter, including Future Fields’ $15.1-million seed funding round, IrisCX’s $6.2-million seed funding round, and Mercator AI’s $5.1-million seed funding round. Seed funding increased from the third and fourth quarters of 2022, which only saw one seed-stage deal per quarter, but briefed.in recorded zero deals at the pre-seed stage in Q1 2023.
Lochrie noted there were several seed-stage deals not accounted for in briefed.in’s report. briefed.in collects its data from founders who submit their deal information directly, or from online, public sources, and not all companies or investors publicly disclose early-stage deals. In fact, investors in other Canadian ecosystems have noticed an increasing number of early-stage startups choosing not to announce funding rounds.
“A very large percentage of ventures operating here are in the seed stage, and many of those deals do not get reported as they are funded out of family offices, angels, and strategics,” Lochrie said, adding that this discrepancy at the seed stage is likely hiding the true deal volume in Alberta.
In addition to the four seed-stage deals and one megadeal raised by Jobber in Q1 2023, Alberta saw two deals in the manufacturing tech sector, including one $50-million Series A funding round, raised by Summit Nanotech, and one $13.4-million Series B funding round, raised by Nanoprecise.
According to briefed.in, SaaS was Alberta’s most active vertical for dealmaking in Q1 2023, but manufacturing startups have also stepped into the spotlight in recent months. This includes Calgary-based Attabotics, which has created a 3D robotics supply chain system for warehouses and secured $95 million in November 2022—one of the largest funding rounds of the year.
Lochrie said while Alberta has “a lot of depth” in the software sector, the province also has a diversified set of ventures in other sectors that has allowed it to continue to grow, despite challenges in the wider economy.
“While software multiples have fallen from their highs, emerging technologies in the industrial world are very much still in favour and attracting capital at significant rates,” Lochrie added.
Alberta’s “unfair advantage”
Over the past year, some investors based in Alberta have expressed concern that the province’s venture funding may decline to levels similar to those observed in other ecosystems in recent quarters. Lochrie, on the other hand, feels there is “a good chance” Alberta could set a new record for venture funding in 2023, based on the province’s strong start to the year.
Lochrie said Alberta’s growth as a hub for tech companies can be attributed to several factors, including its rise and fall as an oil and gas player, its substantial pool of engineering talent, and its strong entrepreneurial culture. He said these unique qualities give Alberta an “unfair advantage” compared to other provinces.
“At Thin Air, it’s our belief the next five to 10 years, Alberta, and Calgary in particular, will continue to grow faster than all other regions of Canada,” he added. “It’s simply a special place to build world-class businesses.”
briefed.in is owned and operated by Communitech. BetaKit receives data from briefed.in as part of a media partnership with Communitech and retains full editorial control of all articles that reference the data produced by briefed.in/Communitech.