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Developing strategies for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region’s economy

This morning Lynette Tremblay, Global Edmonton’s Vice President, Strategy and Innovation joined Danielle Smith on her talk show on 630 CHED to discuss the economic outlook for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region and the proactive approach that Edmonton Global is taking to transform our regional economy. 

Their discussion highlighted the need for collaboration, both on a regional, and a provincial level and how using a data driven approach means we can be proactive and really targeted in how we are attracting investment into Alberta.  

“It’s not good enough anymore to take a passive approach” said Lynette. “We can’t waste resources chasing every shiny object or putting out vague marketing pitches on the assumption that investment will just come our way. Now is the time for us to get creative, aggressive and targeted. That’s why Edmonton Global has developed strategies for targeting investment opportunities that reflect the assets we have, the things we do well, and the things the world is looking for now.”  

A recording of their conversation can be found here.

Lynette also presented on this topic to the Realtors Association of Edmonton’s Housing Forecast event on January 13, 2021. 

For nearly two decades, the Realtor’s Association of Edmonton’s Housing Forecast event has been one of the first of the year to share an economic outlook for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. This year it was held virtually. 

Using the analogy of the shift from analog to digital to streaming services, her speech outlined the importance of talent, innovation and technology adoption as key drivers for economic growth. The presentation included information about how the COVID-19 pandemic has both introduced shifts in the global economic landscape as well as accelerated global trends that existed pre-COVID. 

“Shifts in the global economy mean that opportunities that were once a ‘sure thing’ for the Edmonton region, just aren’t anymore,” said Tremblay. “But these shifts have also opened new doors. We can now compete in areas where we couldn’t before. This is more than hope – these are concrete opportunities where we can compete to win. We’re taking a proactive approach so that when global investors begin unleashing their pent-up demand and start shopping for a new location – we’ll be ready.”  

An opinion piece from Edmonton Global CEO, Malcolm Bruce outlining Edmonton Global’s new regional strategy for attracting foreign investment was recently published in the Edmonton Journal and can be found here and includes immediately investable opportunities across the Edmonton Metropolitan Region: 

Data and trends with Tomas

Tomas Nilsson
The unique blend of data scientist, economist, and Swedish dairy farmer all rolled into regular updates on our region, economics, and trends. Keep checking back for this regularly updated blog by our own Tomas Nilsson, PhD. and bite-sized essayist.

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Alberta Shows Stunning Growth in 2019, Opportunity in 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented event that has forced all businesses to re-evaluate their markets, risks, and priorities. In this time of volatility, predicting the future of venture capital is admittedly challenging. However, there are encouraging signs in the Alberta tech startup ecosystem that build on recent growth and successes in the province. Several startups are well-positioned to meet the current challenges head-on, while others are recalibrating to new metrics and constraints by pivoting to different models. We can find opportunities in crisis and see encouraging support through the establishment of new government programs and the emergence of new resources from all sides of Canadian tech. In this article, we turn our attention to the startups who are tenaciously striving toward new possibilities, as well as recognize some of the successes in Alberta over the past year.

Alberta Experiences Strong Start to 2020

Alberta Venture Capital investment in 2020 has kicked off to a rousing start with several notable financings, including Calgary-based Symend’s $73 million CAD ($52 million USD) Series B raise led by Inovia Capital’s Growth Fund. Symend is one of many Alberta companies scaling rapidly to serve those financially affected by the current situation through a customer engagement platform designed to better connect with financially at-risk customers. 

Alberta Enterprise portfolio fund companies Showbie, SAM and Dryrun, have experienced exponential growth during the COVID-19 situation. The simplicity of the Showbie and Socrative (acquired by Showbie) applications have shined as countries and education systems switched to distance learning, literally overnight. These technologies have allowed teachers to carry on with their virtual classrooms and have enabled students to learn from home – with Showbie seeing 6x teacher signups and Socrative signups exploding to 125,000 teachers over a one-month period.

Meanwhile SAM, a global disruption monitoring platform leveraging artificial intelligence to analyze social media and deliver relevant news to users, is helping teams make informed decisions with increased speed and accuracy to keep people safe when it matters most. Today, SAM is helping some of the world’s largest sectors stay one step ahead of the pandemic with crisis alerts that notify of new and emerging developments, such as lockdowns, closures, evacuations, and unexpected risks related to COVID-19. Record usage during this time has spurred SAM to raise $3.6M CAD in new funding to fuel growth. SAM is an Accelerate FundI company.

The economic challenges of COVID-19 have made cash flow modelling more essential than ever to inform decisions on managing operating costs, hiring or layoffs, and funding new projects. With so many possible scenarios for lifting of social distancing and available government relief, businesses are mapping multiple models for the months ahead. Dryrun’s flexible and highly visual cashflow modelling software saw a 1,300% increase in signups in recent weeks, with new customers coming from 31 different countries and across 70 different currencies! 

Further encouraging investment news is Alberta Enterprise’s launch of a third early-stage angel co-investment fund, Accelerate Fund III, with a $10 million investment. Accelerate Fund III will provide Alberta technology entrepreneurs with a continued source of startup capital. Fund III will be managed by Yaletown Partners with the support of The A100, the same investment team that oversaw Fund II. “We are excited to announce Accelerate Fund III, especially at such a moment of economic and global health uncertainty,” commented Kristina Williams, CEO of Alberta Enterprise Corporation. “The fund is a great early-stage capital resource for the rapidly-growing Alberta tech sector. With this latest deployment of capital, we invite early stage tech companies to stay and grow here, and to expand Alberta’s technology jobs and innovation.”

Alberta Reports Best Year on Record by 40%

After years of building a solid foundation, Alberta’s tech ecosystem is gathering meaningful momentum. 2019 was a record-breaking year for the province of Alberta, which posted a 10-year high of VC startup investment activity, with a total annual volume of $227 million spread across 39 deals. This was a 40% increase over the next closest year on record ($162 million in 2013) according to theCanadian Venture Capital Association (CVCA) 2019 Venture Capital Overview Report. 

 CVCA Venture Capital Overview Report 2019

  • Average deal size in Alberta was $5.8M, higher than the Canadian average of $5.6M when mega-deals were excluded (with Alberta average deal size increasing by 61% over last year’s $3.6M).  
  • Alberta Enterprise portfolio funds Inovia Capital and Panache Ventures were again identified among the most active funds in Canada in 2019 based on number of deals.

PwC MoneyTree Canada Report 2019

  • PwC/CB Insights MoneyTree Canada 2019 reported Calgary startups raised $117 million USD ($157 million CDN) in H2 2019, driven by both larger deal size and an increase in deal activity (which doubled!).
  • Unsurprisingly, the report found that early and seed-stage deals made up 50% of Calgary funding in H2 2019.

Highest Growth Rate: Total Deal Volume & Number of Deals 

Alberta also saw the highest 3-year average growth rate of total VC deal volume in Canada at 84%, when compared with the leading provinces of BC (71%), Ontario (18%) and Quebec (20%), even when mega-deals are included. In addition, Alberta had the highest growth rate for total number of deals, both in 2019 and across a 3-year average, across all Canadian provinces! (St. Johns Newfoundland-based startup Verafin’s $515M raise from September was excluded, as this deal was primarily private equity.)

For the first time ever, Calgary was included as a top 5 city for Canadian VC in 2019, being ranked fourth for total deal volume both in the CVCA 2019 Venture Capital Overview and PwC MoneyTree Reports for the full year 2019. This growth of both total deal volume and number of deals is a clear indication that Alberta’s early stage tech ecosystem is demonstrating maturation. 

Notable 2019 Alberta Investment Deals

  • Ambyint, Calgary/Houston – Provides step-change improvements to oil & gas production volumes and operating expenses with production optimization technology spanning all well types and artificial lift systems. Ambyint utilizes a combination of advanced physics, subject matter expertise, and artificial intelligence to enable full-field visibility, control, and optimization of wells. With deployments in all major North American basins, the company announced a $15 million USD ($19.9 million CDN) Series B funding round on February 4, 2020 led by Cottonwood Venture Partners with participation from Mercury Fund and Ambyint’s management team. Ambyint is a Builders VC investment. Builders VC is an Alberta Enterprise portfolio fund.
  • Communo, Calgary – Operator of North America’s fastest growing talent platform & community- intended to help advertising and digital agencies source talent based on a host of compatibility factors. Communo’s app-based marketplace provides small & large agency owners access to tens of thousands of vetted creative professionals, tens of millions of dollars of project-based work, and valuable training and professional development resources to help firms grow more profitably. In December 2019, Communo secured over $3.3 million in seed funding, bringing their total raised to $4.3M, including investment from notable investors Andrew Kortina – founder of Venmo, CEO of Complex Rich Antoniello, W. Brett Wilson, Kevin Weatherman, Frank Palmer, and ICM Asset Management (Alberta). Communo is a Panache Ventures investment. Panache Ventures is an Alberta Enterprise portfolio fund.
  • Decisive Farming, Irricana – An integrated digital farm management platform solution that connects farmers, farm service and technology providers in one collaborative software platform. The platform acts as the farmer’s primary operating system. It supports everything from planning & budgeting, variable rate fertilizer & seeding, agronomic soil testing, field & inventory management, weather, sensors and crop marketing. Decisive Farming is committed to increasing farmer profitability, sustainability and technology ease-of-use. The platform currently has over six million acres, being used on 40 different crop types in North America and the firm has strategic partnerships with leading distributors across the agriculture value chain.  The company was acquired for an undisclosed amount by TELUS on December 12, 2019. Decisive Farming is a McRock Capital and Accelerate Fund I (AFI) investment, both Alberta Enterprise funds.
  • Ingu Solutions, Calgary – Developer of miniaturized mobile sensors intended to provide oil and gas companies immediate and affordable access to pipeline assets. The company’s inline sensors detect leaks, geometric defects and deposits that threaten pipeline performance and safety with zero-downtime, enabling companies to eliminate human intervention, reduce inspection costs, strengthen preventive maintenance and lower repair and replacement expenditures. Ingu Solutions secured an undisclosed amount of growth capital from Energy Innovation Capital, Chevron Technology Ventures, Bluesky Equities and other investors November 5, 2019.
  • Osperity (formerly Osprey), Calgary – Developer of a cloud-based platform designed to offer intelligent visual monitoring services. The company’s platform detects important operational events, analyzes related images and video with advanced computer vision along with data from other sensors and systems, enabling organizations to remotely inspect facilities and equipment, monitor site activity, optimize labor productivity and ultimately increase and manage more assets with fewer people. The company secured a $6 million funding round from Evok Innovations, InterGen Capital, Shell Ventures and Texas Ventures, closing December 2019. Osperity is a Builders VC investment. Builders VC is an Alberta Enterprise portfolio fund.
  • ParkChamp, Calgary – Parking optimization software using intelligent software solutions that allows any property to offer secure public parking saving properties money and operation costs, secured undisclosed seed funding from Birchcliff Ventures Q4 2019.
  • Smart Access, Edmonton – Smart Access helps large retailers unlock operational efficiencies by empowering their frontline workers with the right information, at the right time, in the right place. On December 30, 2019, they secured $1.5 million CDN in seed funding from Accelerate Fund II, Panache Ventures, Sprout Fund, Birchcliff Partners, Bluesky Equities, and Hummer Winblad. Smart Access is an Accelerate Fund II and Panache Ventures investment. Both are Alberta Enterprise Portfolio Funds.
  • Veerum, Calgary – Developer of an industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform designed to increase capital project productivity. The company’s platform uses digital twin technology and artificial intelligence to create a virtual replica of a physical project or environment that can be used to simulate, operate, and analyze actual or planned operations, while also building a single source of project truth. Veerum secured $2.5 million USD in funding from Evok Innovations, Suncor, Cenovus, InterGen Capital, plus previous investors including Brick and Mortar Ventures, Blackhorn Ventures, Builders VC and Creative Ventures. Veerum is a Builders VC investment. Builders VC is an Alberta Enterprise Portfolio Fund.
  • Virtual Gurus, Calgary – Owner and operator of a virtual service company intended to offer a full range of administrative, receptionist, social media, bookkeeping, and web development services. The company raised $1.2 million CDN in seed funding from Calgary investment collective The51, Vancouver-based Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, and Ryan Lailey in February 2020.
  • ZeroKey, Calgary – Developer of VR technology product intended to revolutionize human interaction with machines. The company’s technology provides wide-area, continuous, real-time and ultra-high accuracy positioning within large spaces and buildings, enabling companies in the AR/VR, manufacturing, supply chain management and logistics industries to solve automation, process optimization, digitization and a wide array of other enterprise/industrial problems easily. ZeroKey secured $565,827 USD in convertible debt from undisclosed investors December 30, 2019.

How to Find Alberta Companies  

Start Alberta is a free and open source dealflow directory that provides an ideal medium for international investors to connect with Alberta entrepreneurs and identify investment opportunities. A strategic partnership between Start Alberta and Crunchbase expands Alberta’s richest database for the startup community – giving Alberta entrepreneurs even greater exposure to national and international investors. Under this partnership, Start Alberta’s database is directly linked to Crunchbase – which reaches over 55 million investment professionals worldwide. 

The Start Alberta platform is stewarded by the Venture Capital Association of Alberta (VCAA) and Platform Calgary, with the mandate to connect investors to a diverse pool of startups, fostering connections that otherwise could not be made.  

About Alberta Enterprise Corporation:

Alberta Enterprise Corporation promotes the development of Alberta’s venture capital industry by investing in venture capital funds that finance early-stage technology companies. We focus on funds that have a strong commitment to Alberta, including a full-time presence in the province. In addition to capital, we support Alberta’s venture capital ecosystem by connecting investors, entrepreneurs, and experienced technology executives who share our passion for building a bright, innovative Alberta.

Since our inception we have committed C$198 million for investment to sixteen VC funds and the Accelerate Funds I, II and III, covering a diverse range of forward-looking industries including information technology, industrial technology, and life sciences. Our funds and their partners have invested more than $550 million into Alberta technology companies.

Global Briefing: Economic impacts of COVID-19 on Business in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region

On Thursday, May 14, Edmonton Global hosted a briefing on the economic and business implications of the continued Covid-19 pandemic.

A video recording of the session is available below. Please contact us at info@edmontonglobal.ca if you have questions or would like to schedule a similar briefing for your organization.

During the briefing Lynette Tremblay, Vice President of Strategy and Innovation provided updates on the continued advocacy work that is being done on behalf of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. She also presented an overview of the different approaches that countries are taking as they move towards reopening.

Tomas Nilsson, Director of Research and Marketing Intelligence gave an overview of how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the economic environment and business development efforts.

For additional information on the advocacy efforts of Edmonton Global on behalf of the region please see the white paper, Road to Recovery: Resiliency.

Inside Alberta’s Entrepreneurial Emergence

It seems like overnight Alberta has emerged on the global scene as a heavy-hitter in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, with a strong cluster of innovative startups powered by these technologies. Alberta’s transforming tech ecosystem might be different than you would expect. While energy and industrial technology are ongoing pillars, the province is also deep in software-enabled startups, with SaaS enterprises accounting for 40% of the province’s dealflow (according to the Alberta Enterprise 2018 Tech Deal Flow Study of 1,238 tech startups).

Demographics of Alberta’s tech ecosystem

Alberta’s tech landscape has a distinct female presence with a remarkable 30% of tech startups being founded or co-founded by women – more than double the Canadian national average. This is according to the 2017 Move the Dial Benchmark Report, which cites that only 13% of companies have a female co-founder, and only 5% of Canadian tech companies have a solo female founder.  Alberta’s strong female tech founder and co-founder representation of 30% also shines in comparison to the US national average of 17%, as reported by Crunchbase’s 2017 Study of Female Founders.

Additionally, Alberta’s tech ecosystem is bolstered by its highly educated workforce, as well as its proximity of several well-respected academic institutions with longstanding R&D reputations and abundant expertise in Energy, Life Sciences and Artificial Intelligence. Curious young minds and mega corporations alike are flocking to the University of Alberta’s Artificial Machine Intelligence Institute (AMII) to be closer to the world-class experts in reinforcement learning and natural language processing (NLP).

Catalysts for new innovation 

Furthermore, the opening of Google Deep Mind’s first North American office in Edmonton, Alberta was not by coincidence. The concentration of AI talent and strategic corporate labs is spurring a new wave of innovative startups. 34% of Alberta technology firms are already integrating AI into their offerings, and this number is expected to increase exponentially (according to the Alberta Tech Deal Flow Study).

Meanwhile, programs like the Creative Destruction Lab Rockies, based out of the Haskayne School of Business, are welcoming Energy and Prime (industry agnostic) Startups for the 2019/20 cohort. Eager for the exceptional mentorship and opportunities to raise capital, the program has received over 430 applications for the 50 available spots from around the globe.  Companies that have participated in the CDL program have raised over $14 million (CAD) in seed funding. CDL-Rockies Alumni include Ingu Solutions Inc., SensorUp, Neuraura, Zept, and Vivametrica – find more CDL companies in the Crunchbase Hub.

Global investors showing interest

Alberta’s startup ecosystem is rapidly gaining momentum, and global investors are taking notice. With twelve funds now with offices in Alberta (four of which also have offices in Silicon Valley), the growing venture capital industry is prompting increasingly impressive raises and exits. One such example is Drivewyze, which secured CDN $20 million from investors, including Alberta Enterprise’s VC fund Inovia Capital. Here are a few more examples of recent VC activity for Alberta startups:

A flurry of mergers and acquisitions have also taken place recently in Alberta, including a CDN $1.1 billion exit for Soliuma publicly traded SaaS company headquartered in Calgary recently acquired by Morgan Stanley.

Recent investment deals

2019 has started off with great momentum with several notable VC deals taking place in Alberta.

  • Eideticom, a company developing Computational Storage Processors for data center applications, secured USD $2 million in investment from Inovia Capital’s 2018 Fund, an Alberta Enterprise portfolio fund.
  • Passportal, an Accelerate Fund II investment was acquired by SolarWinds(NYSE:SWI), a leading provider of powerful and affordable IT management software.
  • Scope ARan Edmonton and San Francisco-based augmented reality company closed CDN $13 million Series A funding to help make any worker an instant expert with augmented reality. The round was led by Romulus Capital, with follow-on investment participation from existing investors SignalFire, Susa Ventures, Haystack, New Stack Ventures, North American Corporation and Angel List.

2018 Deals

Early Stage (Angel and Seed):

  • AltaML, a developer of AI/ML applications that partners with organizations using a co-development model to provide technical and strategic expertise to build applied AI/ML applications, raised $3M USD of seed funding from Alberta angel investors.
  • Communo, a give/get work marketplace providing contingent workers and new projects to digital, creative and marketing agencies, secured CDN $1 million of angel-funding from several investors, including Panache Ventures, an Alberta Enterprise portfolio fund.
  • Drivewyze, a sensor-enabled trucking and logistics company, secured CDN $20 million from investors, including Inovia Capital, an Alberta Enterprise portfolio fund.
  • Fresnel Software, developer of a project management software designed to deploy utility-based infrastructures such as telecom, pipelines and distributed assets, secured CDN $1.63 million in angel investment.
  • iMirror, developer of an advanced interactive mirror designed to help consumers in the fitting rooms, closed a seed round of CDN $1.8 million backed by 500 Startups, Alchemist Accelerator, BDC and Valhalla Angels.
  • McThings, which provides businesses with access into the world of the Internet of Things with products that are affordable, easy to manage and highly scalable, secured early stage financing from Alberta Enterprise’s Accelerate Fund II.
  • MobSquad, which provides a solution to the significant and growing technology shortage faced by US-based start-ups and scale-ups, has raised a total of C$11 million in funding, comprised of US$4.6MM in seed-funding coming from private investors including Relay Ventures and Panache Ventures (both Alberta Enterprise portfolio funds), as well as C$5.5MM in non-dilutive funding from municipal, provincial, and federal orders of government.  
  •  OncoQuest, an Edmonton-based biopharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialization of immunotherapeutic products for the treatment of cancer, completed a private placement financing which raised USD $6.03 million.
  • SensorUP, a sensor data, analytics, and mapping API provider for every application, secured CDN $2 million of seed-funding from Vanedge Capital Partners.
  • StellarAlgo, a customer data platform that enables live audience businesses to leverage their data in order to better understand and connect with their fans., secured CDN $1 million of early stage financing with help from Alberta Enterprise’s Accelerate Fund II and Yaletown Partners.
  • Testfire Labs, a software and consulting services company building products that take advantage of the latest developments in AI, secured early stage financing from Alberta Enterprise’s Accelerate Fund II.
  • Veerum, an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) company that matches digital technologies with capital project delivery, secured CDN $3.9 million of seed-funding from Builders VC, Blackhorn Ventures, Brick & Mortar Ventures, Creative Ventures and Ryerson Futures Inc. (RFI).
  • Zept, a Machine Learning company that serves as a grade matching service for international students and universities., secured CDN $1.3 million of seed-funding from Alberta angel investors.
  • ZeroKEY, developer of a VR technology product to help humans interact with machines, secured CDN $1.9 million of angel investment and early stage venture capital funding.

Series A and Series B:

  • Ambyint, an IIOT company focused on oil well optimization technology, utilizing lightweight sensors, wireless communications and advanced analytics secured a USD $11.5 million Series A led by Mercury Fund and participated in by, among others, Builders VC, an Alberta Enterprise portfolio fund.
  • Circle Cardiovascular Imaging, developer and marketer of cardiovascular post-processing software that allows for the evaluation and analysis of MRI and CT images, secured CDN $16 million Series A investment co-led by Yaletown-Ventures, an Alberta Enterprise portfolio fund, as well as Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors.
  • Decisive Farming, a precision agriculture and data analytics software platform dedicated to increasing farmers’ profitability, sustainability, and technology ease-of-use, secured a Series B investment of an undisclosed amount, led by McRock Capital, an Alberta Enterprise portfolio fund.
  • Osprey Informatics, a visual monitoring provider which offers a SaaS platform to help oil and gas companies manage remote cameras, secured CDN $3.75 million Series B investment led by Shell Ventures and Evok Innovations, with new Calgary-based fund InterGen Capital; the company plans to use the investment to drive sales and develop AI-enabled solutions.

How to find Alberta companies 

StartAlberta is a free and open source dealflow directory that provides an ideal medium for international investors to connect with Alberta entrepreneurs and identify investment opportunities. A new strategic partnership between StartAlbertaand Crunchbase expands Alberta’s richest database for the startup community – giving Alberta entrepreneurs even greater exposure to national and international investors. Under this partnership, StartAlberta’s database will be directly linked to Crunchbase – which reaches over 50 million investment professionals worldwide.

The StartAlberta platform is stewarded by the Venture Capital Association of Alberta (VCAA), with the express mandate to connect investors to a diverse pool of startups, fostering connections that otherwise could not be made. 

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