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Yeehaw, or yahoo? While Calgarians may be divided on the right way to show enthusiasm during the city’s annual Stampede, there’s no debating Calgary’s startup scene. With an increasing number of tech companies setting up shop in the downtown core and early stage investment in the city’s startups experiencing exponential growth, Calgary is a city worth keeping an eye on.
Calgary is the third-largest municipality in Canada and has the second-lowest cost of living in the country. Having the title of being the third most liveable city in the world (tied with Zurich!) assists in making it popular with tech businesses and talent. The city boasts a highly educated and STEM-oriented talent pool thanks to its history in the energy sector. It also hosts a variety of business accelerators geared toward companies at all stages of growth.
Young, affordable, and booming with opportunity, plenty of startups call Calgary home. Here are some of the best startups in the heart of the new west.
Year founded: 2021
After helping develop and scale the technology used by popular delivery app SkipTheDishes, the founders of Kiwi Grocery set out to create a delivery service of their own. The result is a unique type of logistics technology designed to make same-day grocery delivery cheaper than retail.
Shorter routes, online order batching, and direct partnerships with both local and national retailers help cut costs and pass savings on to customers. Paired with consistent drivers and fleet management tools, the company makes the delivery process more affordable (and reliable) for the businesses it serves.
Year founded: 2021
Is there such a thing as ‘rent day bliss’? Calgary-based startup Zenbase thinks so. By charging a small monthly fee in exchange for flexible rent payments, Zenbase helps users navigate life’s financial challenges at a lower cost.
“We are levelling the playing field by giving Canadians the flexibility that they need without getting penalized,” says Koray Can Oztekin, Zenbase’s founder and CEO.
To achieve that bliss on the first of the month, Zenbase facilitates flexible rent payments and allows renters to split their monthly payments. Tenants pay according to their personalized rent payment schedule. This process helps reduce financial stress and improves resident satisfaction. In addition, users can take advantage of fee-free cash advances for utilities, gas, and grocery bills.
The company also partners with property management companies, where its payment system offers landlords lower operational overhead, higher resident retention, and a more consistent payout rate. It’s a flexible funding model that works for both users and investors.
This May, Zenbase received $4.1M in a seed round led by Global Founders Capital. With the money, the company plans to expand its services from the prairie provinces into Ontario, the Maritimes, and B.C.
Year founded: 2020
Dealing with crowds can be stressful for both customers and staff. That’s why co-founders Shannon and Steve Vander Meulen created WaitWell. WaitWell is a digital workflow solution that manages lineups and offers businesses the smoothest queuing experience possible.
WaitWell’s product is a form of ‘virtual crowd control’ done via SMS text. Using their cellphone, customers can join a queue, stay up to date on their expected wait time, and regain their place in line if they miss their turn. This gives them more control over the waiting experience and improves their impression of the business overall.
Public offices, universities, and large retailers across Canada now use WaitWell to manage their queues. This Calgary startup recently received 1M CAD in a seed round funded by lead investors at Metiquity and Startup TnT, and plans to use funds to enhance service offerings and expand into the United States.
Year founded: 2019
How do you mix artificial intelligence with one of the oldest industries on the planet? For Calgary-based startup Verge Agriculture, it’s all about changing the way we farm. AI-powered interactive software lets Verge farmers plan, simulate, and maintain optimal paths for seeding, spraying, and watering crops.
Verge’s CEO Ryan Johnson says incorporating AI is a critical move for the future of agriculture. With AI-powered software, farmers can make managing land and equipment autonomous. Harnessing the power of AI also helps grow crops more efficiently, use fewer resources, and harvest a larger yield.
This focus on ‘precision farming’ earned Verge 7.5M in a Series A round led by Yamaha Motor Ventures this spring. With the money, Verge plans to expand its agricultural technology into key global markets.
Year founded: 2019
Lithium batteries power everything from mobile phones to electric cars. However, the exponential change in demand for lithium in recent years has consequences for both its sustainability and supply.
Enter Summit Nanotech. With its denaLi™ modular units, Summit offers lithium producers a way to increase yield, reduce pollution, and cut down on chemicals. Summit’s units create 90% less waste than traditional lithium extraction methods, and the company also has a process for recovering lithium from recycled battery streams in the works.
Summit hopes its technology will set the benchmark for environmental performance and lithium mining as a whole. Last December, it received $17.8M CAD in a Series A round co-led by investors Xora Innovation and Capricorn’s Technology Impact Fund. The capital will be used to scale the product for worldwide use.