Edmonton tech company Jobber has raised $60 million US in growth financing to help fund research and future growth, but won’t take much of a break to savour the success.
Sam Pillar, CEO and co-founder of Jobber, told CBC’s Edmonton AM this week the company is taking a moment to be happy at the news, but will be getting right back to work.
“This financing is going to allow us to really continue doing more of what we have been doing for the last number of years but at a larger scale and with a bigger ambition to build a global technology company,” Pillar said Thursday.
Jobber provides management software for small home-service businesses like lawn care, HVAC, painting, roofers and residential cleaning.
Earlier this week the company announced it had raised $60 million US from existing and new investors. The money will be used for research and development, marketing and reaching more customers.
Started in Edmonton in 2011, Jobber has grown to have more than 250 employees and a second office in Toronto.
With the new funding, the firm plans to hire another 200 people, both from Edmonton and outside, in the next 12 months.
Edmonton’s tech sector is growing, fuelled in recent years by Jobber and other companies. The sector is leveraging local talent and the strength of its own community, which is small compared to other major Canadian cities.
Edmonton Global, an economic development corporation for the Edmonton metropolitan region, says other local tech companies have also had recent success raising funds.
They include Drivewyze, which raised $60 million US in minority financing last July; SAM, which raised $3.6 million last May; and Showbie, which raised $5 million last August.
Much like what e-commerce company Shopify has done for Ottawa, in terms of being a major employer and transforming the tech landscape of the region, Jobber hopes to achieve in Edmonton, Pillar said.
He said building a global tech company is possible anywhere in the world now, but being in a city like Edmonton comes with some challenges.
“The ecosystem is less developed and less mature than some of the larger ecosystems,” he said. “It’s a smaller population mass as well.”
However, he added that the flip side of that challenge is that a smaller tech ecosystem also means less competition.
He also said Edmonton offered a lot of talent coming from the University of Alberta, MacEwan University and NAIT, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.
Talent is the local tech sector’s biggest driver, said Lynette Tremblay, vice-president of strategy and innovation with Edmonton Global.
“That is the primary driver for a tech company because their most important capital is human capital,” Tremblay said. “Wherever the talent is, that’s generally where the company is going to want to locate.”
Tremblay noted that in 2019, RBC ranked Edmonton the best city for Canadian youth to live and work in.
In the same year, real estate giant CBRE’s research centre ranked Edmonton as one of top 10 Canadian cities — not only for affordability but also for tech jobs, noting that jobs in the sector had increased by 26 per cent in the previous five years.
Tremblay said one of the challenges the city faces is that although there is enough talent, there aren’t enough companies to hire all the qualified workers. Edmonton Global estimates about 5,000 graduates are leaving the region per year.
“So we need to try to retain that talent because that is going to attract the companies,” she said.
However, talent is also the biggest cost for tech companies, Tremblay said, adding that while petrochemical companies can get tax breaks for machinery, equipment and construction, tech companies have been asking for help to offset the cost of labour.
“Jurisdictions we are competing against — Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal — they all have similar incentives in place,” she said. “So anything we can do to level the playing field, helps us.”
Besides talent from post secondary schools, Edmonton’s start-up community thrives because of support from within, said Lauren Briske, interim director at Startup Edmonton.
“It is a tight-knit community,” Briske said. “There’re lots of people kind of willing to, kind of open doors for people that are taking a chance on entrepreneurship, taking a chance on taking their ideas to market.”
Companies like Jobber are dedicated to growing and supporting Edmonton’s start-up community as well, she said.
“Tons of their team members actively mentor early-stage companies.”