How Edmonton’s Startup Ecosystem has Evolved Since 2006
I landed in the city of Edmonton on September 1, 2006. This was a time when there were no iPhones, no Twitter and Facebook had just 15 million users. I know, I sound old.
I was here for my master’s degree at the University of Alberta, but I was also here to learn from the western world. More importantly, I planned to set myself up for an entrepreneurial journey so I was constantly searching for an ecosystem that fostered entrepreneurship.
At the time, Edmonton did not have such an ecosystem other than the help offered by BusinessLink, which was, and still is, a great resource for first-time entrepreneurs. However, in less than 8 years, Edmonton developed a thriving tech startup ecosystem which I closely followed. I want to share my account.
Founded in 2006, TEC Edmonton has been named Canada’s best university incubator today and is supporting over 50 startups at the Enterprise Square. It is a great organization for tech startups with a working prototype and clear vision.
StartupEdmonton is a not-for-profit initiative founded in 2009, which fills the biggest gap in our startup ecosystem — bringing people together through its startup campus, organizing hundreds of events and meetups. They are the perfect coworking space for startups and foster a great community of 160 resident members and over 45 startups. I’d say the space is even better than what I have seen in Montreal, Calgary, and Vancouver.
Edmonton has a great tradition of entrepreneurship and the A100 leverages that by bringing together successful entrepreneurs. It was founded in 2010 and has around 62 members who provide young startups with advice, networking and investment.
Edmonton has plenty of startup workspace available now. We have over 14,000 sq ft of coworking space at StartupEdmonton, over 30,000 sq ft space available for individual offices in TEC Edmonton and a huge workspace available at 243-acre campus of Advanced Technology Centre. All together, they are home to over 150 startups.
Edmonton hosts lots of startup events that bring like minded people together to ignite innovation. These types of events started back in 2008 with DemoCamp, an event that allowed startups to demonstrate their products in front of over 200 people. They have showcased over 250 startups since their inception.
Started in 2010, Launch Party is a celebration of entrepreneurship and innovation by the local startup community. 10 early stage startups are launched every year and exposed to investors, media and more.
AccelerateAB, organized by the A100, is an annual conference of startup members (founders, investors, industry experts, and startup enthusiasts), and offers a chance for members to come together for networking, introductions, and information.
Edmonton has a good availability of early investment money. Early-stage startups have a chance to win $180,000 worth of prizes in the TEC Edmonton-backed annual VenturePrize competition.
VA Angels and Alberta Deal Generator are two active angel investor groups. TEC Edmonton and VA Angels merged to become TEC Venture Angels — over the last two years they have raised $100 million in seed financing.
Accelerate Fund, a $10 Million matching fund, was launched in 2012 to motivate more angel investors to participate and make seed round fundraising easier for startups.
Recently, TEC Health Accelerator was launched to support health technology startups and eHub was launched to support UofA student startups.
Edmonton also has a decent presence of venture capital. AVAC is a fund worth more than $100M that invests in ITC, agriculture and food and has invested in over 115 companies. BDC Capital, on the other hand, invests in early-stage technology ventures. Yaletown Venture Partners and iNovia have been actively participating in tech funding events.
Since 2006, Edmonton has had some notable exits. The gaming company Bioware was acquired for a massive $800 Million by Electronic Arts, a publicly traded American company with a market cap of $13 billion. Swype, a virtual keyboard for touchscreen smart devices, was acquired by Nuance Communications for over $100 million in October 211. Investopedia, a financial portal, was acquired by Forbes for an undisclosed amount in 2007.
I am very fortunate to have seen the rise of early stage startups in Edmonton, startups that are now doing business worldwide and have raised money across North America. In the last two years, Edmonton witnessed over 10 startups that raised angel and VC money — Jobber ($750k), Granify ($1.5M), Mover ($1M), Showbie (Undisclosed), Poppy Barely (Undisclosed), Mitre Media ($8.6M), Sam (Undisclosed), Visio Media (Undisclosed), my own startup LoginRadius ($1.35M) and more!
I do not need to say much about great government initiatives for startups by IRAP, SR&ED, AITF, etc. The government is eager to support homegrown startups and there are a multitude of initiatives for many different sectors.
This is my account of how Edmonton’s startup ecosystem evolved since 2006. If I missed something, please leave a comment and I will add that ☺
About RAKESH SONI
Soni is cofounder of LoginRadius — leading social marketing platform with 120,000 business customers and monthly reach of 250M users. He writes about social media marketing and loves to share his entrepreneurial journey.