Canadian tech companies stepping up to help remote workers survive COVID-19

Whether you have employees in self-isolation or your team is working from home as part of new remote work policies, here’s a look at Canadian startups looking to make life easier.

As the number of COVID-19 cases in Canada increases, companies across the country are asking employees to self-isolate and work from home for the foreseeable future.

“Local support during a time like this is important for Canada’s technology scene.”

For some firms, the rapidly growing outbreak has forced them to trial remote work policies for the first time and left others scrambling for affordable (and scalable) options to maintain productivity.

Of course, before the pandemic struck remote work was already on the rise with employers relying on organizations like Zoom and Skype to satisfy their needs. As the economy continues to take a battering, Canadian companies are increasingly standing up and asking businesses to consider supporting homegrown upstarts for their remote needs, too.

One of those companies is Stage Ten, a startup based in Toronto that offers live streaming for creative agencies affected by the pandemic. Stage Ten’s platform can instantly broadcast content to multiple social media platforms and also doubles as video conferencing and webinar tools for large groups. The small – but growing – firm may not be a household name in Canada just yet, but has global customers and is looking to help Canadians during these uncertain times. Stage Ten recently launched a free program that gives Canadian creators free plans and lets other users discount paid plans by 50 percent until the COVID-19 crisis is over.

RELATED: Live-streaming startup Stage Ten closes seed round led by Next 10 Ventures

“Local support during a time like this is important for Canada’s technology scene,” said Sonia Hong, Stage Ten’s director of creative production.

“It’s our local economy and we can only thrive and employ other Canadians if we power each other,” she explained. “People are desperate for solutions and we’re here to help, but tech recognition in Canada is lower than in the States.”

Despite the lack of name recognition within the country, Stage Ten is seeing increased interest south of the border. Since the virus was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) the startup had been in talks with heavyweights to expand their own digital services for customers.

Leighton Healey is the CEO of KnowHow, another company offering local options and free trials for Canadians thinking about hiring US remote firms.

RELATED: Here’s how #CDNtech companies are pitching in during COVID-19

The Calgary startup’s software allows remote workers to instantly access company processes, research, and workflow from one program so workers don’t have to pay for multiple software applications to maintain operations. For now, KnowHow is letting businesses trial and access its programs for free. Despite the fact that it provides similar services as its US competitors, interest in signing up international products over local ones is a challenge Canadian entrepreneurs face all the time.

“The American products are better marketed and Canadian consumers are more familiar with them,” Healey explained. “If Canadians knew that there were Canadian software companies that could help them support their remote teams, like KnowHow, I’m sure they would prefer their dollars to support a Canadian company.”

For Daryna Kulya, CEO of OpenPhone, Canadian support could help startups, like hers, hire more workers made redundant, while also helping work-from-home employees.

“We’ve had many small businesses reach out to us asking for help as they want to move from their office phone setup given their employees work remotely now and we want to help,” she said. “We’re offering anyone who is porting their landline or desk phone to OpenPhone three months free. We want to help organizations transition to remote work easier.”

Since launching, OpenPhone has worked with clients like Deloitte, Getaround, Setter, Y Combinator, and Yale University, but is now setting its sights on helping entrepreneurs closer to home through its free, three-month program.

RELATED: OpenPhone announces new features, $2.6 million CAD round closed in 2018

Office workers aren’t the only ones in need of remote help. Doctors, health aides, and general practitioners are all in need of services that help them serve the public while maintaining social distancing.

Enter Roxana Zaman, COO and co-founder of telehealth startup Maple. The Canadian telemedicine startup is working behind the scenes to give patients and health workers easier access to the medical tools they need.

“Canadian telemedicine companies haven’t yet developed the brand recognition they deserve, since building awareness takes time and significant resources, but that’s all about to change since the COVID-19 pandemic has exponentially accelerated awareness for services like Maple that are made in Canada, for Canadians,” said Zaman

Maple is doing its part to help by creating a series of programs for those unable to visit their local hospital or uncertain about where to go if they feel ill. Maple’s new programs include a free COVID-19 screening program for Canadian citizens and residents with Ontario OHIP cards.

The healthtech startup also launched a virtual clinic for doctors who need to move their work online and, last but not least, Maple is working with Shoppers Drug Mart to provide virtual doctor sessions for patients living in a province where online services aren’t covered by the province.

“This is an opportunity for homegrown health technology like ours to support doctors and patients in a time of crisis,” Zaman said. “And also transform the way we deliver health care in this country going forward.”

Photo by Sajjad Hussain M from Burst.


Takara Small

Takara Small is a Toronto-based journalist and broadcaster. She's the technology columnist for CBC's Metro Morning and has appeared as an on-air expert for CBC News, The National, and more. She was previously the contributing editor for Fortune magazine and host for the Globe and Mail podcast I'll Go First. Over the years her award-winning work has appeared in numerous outlets, which include the BBC, Toronto Star, Refinery29, Flare magazine, Mic, Chatelaine, and more.

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