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Vancouver has an abundance of talent in tech. Thanks to the mild climate, tempting array of options for foodies, and top-tier education, the city has attracted its share of startups and founders alike. In fact, Vancouver held the title of most startups per capita in 2017. Although Toronto/Waterloo has since regained its place atop the Canadian charts, the city remains a close runner-up and is still one of North America’s best tech ecosystems today.
Investors are flocking to British Columbia’s largest metropolis, and it’s easy to see why. Vancouver is a tech hotspot with more than 10,000 companies that call the city home. These tech companies generate around $15 billion of BC’s GDP and have access to a global pool of talent thanks to the province’s support of the federal Startup Visa program.
With so much to offer, it’s no wonder the city has generated so many tech ‘unicorns’ in the last several years. Although a large pool of established startups calls this city home, plenty of new contenders are worth a watch. Here are 5 of our favourites:
Year founded: 2020
Conveniently founded at the beginning of the pandemic, Vancouver startup MintList is out to change how we sell used cars. In a 10-minute process, MintList’s users upload pictures and input information about the vehicle they want to sell directly through their phone. Then, AI-based technology pulls information about the car and its condition before putting it up for sale. Auctions happen weekly, and interested parties (including dealerships) bid on the vehicle online. Once the auction ends, the seller has 24 hours to accept the highest bid before cashing out and receiving funds.
It’s a simplified buying process that couldn’t come at a better time. With a semiconductor shortage causing a backlog of orders for new cars, many expect the used car market to be a significant opportunity in the coming years. Unlike other competitors or US-based counterpart Carvana, MintList’s co-founders say the startup ‘isn’t trying to recreate the wheel.’ Instead of investing in an online dealership, MintList works with existing dealerships to facilitate the sale. This way, consumers can sell straight to dealers and, in the future, be able to buy and trade with dealerships too.
MintList raised $2.76M in an all-equity seed round in October of 2021, backed by lead investor Stand Up Ventures. With the funds, the startup continues to expand its headcount, partnerships, and network of dealers.
Year founded: 2020
Agritech startup Verdi Agriculture brings the precision of indoor growing technology to outdoor crops. With a blend of satellite and climate technology and machine learning, Verdi’s founders hope to cut back on water waste and help farmers move away from the outdated equipment causing inefficiency in their fields.
“Their existing infrastructure really only allows them to do these one-size-fits-all treatments,” explains CEO and co-founder Arthur Chen. “What we’re trying to do here is to give farmers the ability to customize water and [fertilizer] application for individual groups of plants or even single plants in a field.”
This customization is done via a system of specialized controllers and sensors retrofitted to existing infrastructure on the farm. Once installed, Verdi’s platform can automate and tailor the watering and fertilization process accordingly. This customized approach leads to higher revenue per acre, lower costs for supplies like water or fertilizer and a more balanced ripening process. All of which lead to a more cost-effective and eco-efficient farm.
Year founded: 2021
The delivery services industry is worth over $440 billion worldwide. However, most last-mile delivery service providers (like FedEx or independent package carriers) still run via outdated web portals, phone lines, or email. This mismatch is a significant pain point in the industry, but Vancouver-based startup SafeDigit.io thinks they have the solution.
“Offline retail stores created online channels, and eCommerce platforms are now used at a scale we’ve never seen before,” explains SafeDigit co-founder Dale Williams. “It’s put a lot of pressure on delivery services to figure out how to build apps and integrations.”
Using SafeDigit, delivery services can now fully integrate with major eCommerce platforms like Shopify, Wix, or WooCommerce. They can also automatically coordinate deliveries or pickups and help customers track packages in real-time.
“Logistics is still going through its technical revolution,” says CEO Marat Asadurian. “We’re just getting started.”
Investors agree, and SafeDigit recently received $1.2M in a pre-seed round backed by lead investor Ascend.vc.
Year founded: 2021
Dubbed the ‘PayPal of Africa,’ Vancouver-based fintech Payday makes it easier for African users to send and receive money overseas. In exchange for a $5 fee, Payday’s users get a virtual wallet where they can accept international money transfers and a virtual credit card they can use anywhere. Whether it’s tuition, foreign employment cheques, or shopping online, the company plans to be a ‘one-stop shop‘ for moving African funds.
Payday joined Techstars Toronto in late 2021 after its cold launch in June of that year brought in over 5000 users and $1.4M in transactions in the span of 3 weeks. With most of these users coming from referrals and word of mouth, Payday’s success made investors take notice. The company received $1M in pre-seed funding from investors LoftyInc Capital, Microtraction, Magic Fund, Ventures Platform, Voltron Capital, CcHub Syndicate, Helicarrier Inc., Greencap Equity, Midlothian Angel Network, and Emergence Capital.
Year founded: 2021
Omnisearch is on a mission to make accessing unstructured data easier. Founded in 2021 by co-founders Marin Smiljanic and Matej Ferencevic, Omnisearch is a byproduct of Smiljanic’s experience working as a software engineer for Amazon.
“We had hours of training videos that we needed to go through, packed with really dense technical information,” Smiljanic explains. “It was impossible to find exact moments where the information was covered and navigate straight to them.”
With co-founder Ferencevic, also a software engineer, Smiljanic has expanded the product from searchable audio and visible files to what the startup now calls the ‘most complete and versatile search software today.’ Omnisearch users can sift through everything from presentations to images, making it popular in the growing edtech space.