Fuelled by growing demand for its customer engagement platform for financially at-risk customers, Calgary-based Symend has secured a $54 million CAD ($43 million USD) Series B extension to satisfy telecommunications and financial institutions globally.
The round comes eight months after Symend secured $73 million CAD ($52 million USD) as part of its original Series B round, which clocked-in as one of the largest such rounds in recent Alberta history. The extension furthers that narrative, with Symend’s Series B now totalling $127 million CAD. The new financing brings Symend’s total funding to date to around $130 million CAD.
“We’re more and more starting to view our business as a global company.”
– Hanif Joshaghani,
CEO and founder of Symend
The decision to raise the extensions was fueled by increased demand for Symend’s product from telecommunications and financial institutions, and the desire to take the startup’s offering global.
“We’re starting to work with bigger and bigger organizations across North America, and we’re expanding into new verticals, we’re launching new products,” said Hanif Joshaghani, CEO of Symend, in an interview. “Once you take all of those things, we feel like the moment is now to really go after it and build a globally relevant company.”
The all-equity funding was primarily an inside round from a group of existing Symend investors. In addition to Symend’s initial Series B round, Inovia Capital also led the extension via its Growth Fund I. SEDAR filings reviewed by BetaKit indicate the venture firm recently launched a new fund for growth stage investments named iNovia Growth Fund II.
Symend refused to disclose any investors outside of its lead, but did note a mix of returning and new investors. Previous Symend investors include Ignition Partners, Impression Ventures, BDC Capital’s Women in Technology Fund, Mistral Venture Partners, Telus Ventures, BMO Capital Partners, and angel investors including Plenty of Fish founder Markus Frind. Joshaghani told BetaKit around 10 to 15 percent of the extension included secondary capital that went to buying out some angel investors.
Symend was founded in 2016 by Joshaghani and chief marketing officer, Tiffany Kaminsky.
Its mission is to digitally transform the customer service experience for financially at-risk customers by using behavioural science, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
The startup’s main customers to date have been large telecommunications companies. Symend claims to work with two-thirds of the major telecommunications providers in North America.
The company also boasts a customer conversion rate of 100 percent following proof of value. Now, the Calgary startup is looking to expand its horizons. Speaking with BetaKit last year, Joshaghani noted Symend was working to onboard its first major national bank. Having since successfully onboard said client, Symend says it is seeing interest from other “major players in financial services.”
“This is a special team of founders and management,” said Inovia Capital general partner Dennis Kavelman. “They are really solving something important. Not just financially important, but I think it matters, in general, about how these really, really large telcos or financial institutions, or others, deal with their customers, particularly in these times.”
“[Symend is] well-capitalized, now, to really grow into what we think is a global opportunity,” Kavelman, who sits on Symend’s board, added.
With validation from its North American customers, part of Symend’s focus will be growing its presence in international markets. The startup claims to be on track to “significantly expand” its global client roster in 2021, having recently opened an office in Australia to serve the Asia-Pacific market. Symend also plans to expand into Latin America and Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA).
The decision to do so follows a year where, despite challenges from COVID-19, Joshaghan claims Symend exceeded many of the growth metrics it had outlined for 2020.
While he would not provide exact statistics, the CEO claimed Symend’s overall growth was in line with its employee growth, which went from 50 to 225 members last year – a 350 percent increase. Symend expects to double its headcount this year.
Symend attributed a portion of that employee growth to solidifying the company’s executive and senior management.
Over the last few months, Symend hired Vivian Farris, the now-former VP of people for fellow Calgary success story Benevity, who joined as Symend’s chief people officer. The startup also brought on Corey Scobie as its CTO, PehKeong Teh as chief product officer, and Matt LaHood as senior vice president of science and analytics services.
Regarding how Symend’s new funding and hires will support the company’s efforts, Joshaghani said, “I think that the rate of value we can create and deliver to our customers is going to accelerate dramatically.”
Symend’s growing clout points to the startup being a burgeoning success story for the Calgary and overall Alberta tech ecosystem.
The province’s tech sector has matured at a rapid rate over the past few years, with tech startups comprising 35 percent of Alberta-owned and operated technology companies in 2019. At the municipal level, Calgary is working to grow its tech sector to offset the economic damage caused by a struggling oil and gas sector. There is a goal among the city’s economic development organizations to triple the size of Calgary’s tech startup sector over the next 10 years with more than 2,000 startups and over 1,000 tech companies.
Symend, much like Benevity, which also has a global presence, is on track to help meet those goals and raise Calgary’s profile on the international stage. Earlier this year, the startup took over a 79,000 square foot office downtown, and hired around 150 local employees last year.
“As we look at the growing ecosystem … we are really being able to better not only Calgary, but grow beyond that in Canada and also on a global scale, which I think is pretty incredible as we look at accelerating that ecosystem,” said Kaminsky.
“We’re more and more starting to view our business as a global company that happens to be headquartered in Calgary,” said Joshaghani.
Feature image courtesy Symend
UPDATE 09/02/2020: This article previously incorrectly noted Symend’s chief people officer as Vivian Francis, this has been updated with correct spelling.