The Canadian startups that could be billion-dollar breakouts in 2019 - Macleans.ca

The Canadian startups that could be billion-dollar breakouts in 2019

These 10 tech firms on the rise could hit a billion-dollar valuation—but will they?

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In the U.S., tech companies valued over $1 billion are known as “unicorns.” North of the border, they’re narwhals. (Photo illustration by Lauren Cattermole)

Shopify, the Ottawa-based e-commerce platform, has made major headlines in recent years with its soaring stock price and expanding global footprint. But these 10 startups are raring to make news, too. One might even become a narwhal, the nickname for rare Canadian tech firms that achieve a billion-dollar valuation.


Hubba logo

Hubba

Location:
Toronto

Backed by Goldman Sachs, the online platform helps independent retailers discover cool and unique products to add to their inventory. It uses AI to analyze consumer behaviour to better match retailers to the right brands. Despite two rounds of layoffs in 2018, CEO Ben Zifkin says the company will reinvest in its machine learning, engineering and data teams and hopes to hit $100 million in annual revenue.


Kira Systems logo

Kira Systems

Location:
Toronto

This AI software frees up lawyers from the pain and drudgery of reviewing contracts by automatically extracting the most relevant information. Kira Systems bootstrapped its way to a client list of leading law firms, and this past September it secured its first major investment: a cool US$50 million to help it grow beyond Toronto.


Ample Organics logo

Ample Organics

Location:
Toronto

Major cannabis producers like Aurora and Aphria use Ample’s seed-to-sale software to manage everything from cannabis cultivation to packaging to regulation compliance; the majority of Canadian licensed producers have already signed up. “As the industry matures, the software is evolving with it,” says Erica Pretorius, national leader of Deloitte Canada’s Technology Fast 50 program.


Ritual Technologies logo

Ritual Technologies

Location:
Toronto

This order-ahead app lets busy people skip the line and get their food faster. After establishing itself in Toronto, it expanded to New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C. The $90 million raised by the firm in June will go toward expanding in Europe and Asia, as well as doubling its 150-person staff.

READ MORE: The Canadian tech startups that could be the next billion-dollar breakouts

Intuitive logo

Intuitive

Location:
Vancouver

Winner of the 2017 Top Venture award by NextAI, the company has developed an AI sensor called Oscar that attaches to any garbage can and tells people where their trash should go: garbage, recycling or organics. The company has already started working on pilots for several Fortune 500 companies. “They have potential to make the planet a greener place,” says tech expert Amber MacArthur.


League logo

League

Location:
Toronto

A health insurance app that lets employees personalize their benefits, League has nabbed a number of big employers including Shopify, Unilever and KPMG. Led by Michael Serbinis, the former owner of Kobo, the company expanded to the U.S. last year and plans to begin operations in the EU and U.K. in 2019. “It has a very solid team of leaders that have been there and done that before,” says Daryl Johnston, a director of market development at Deloitte Canada.

READ MORE: How League is rethinking traditional workplace health benefits

North logo

North

Location:
Kitchener

Formerly known as Thalmic Labs, the wearables company has done what Google failed to do: it created the first pair of “everyday smart glasses” that actually look good. The company plans to open stores in Toronto and Brooklyn. At $1,299, the glasses let wearers view text messages, check the time and order an Uber. “[They’re] functional, stylish and something the average person might wear,” says tech expert Amber MacArthur.


Dialogue logo

Dialogue

Location:
Montreal

This virtual clinic allows users to access health care services from their phone, whether it’s getting a diagnosis via messaging and video conference or renewing prescriptions. The company is developing an AI tool that thinks like an ER doctor. “What they’re doing will really help connect remote communities to health services,” says Deloitte’s Erica Pretorius.


Setter logo

Setter

Location:
Toronto

This home improvement app acts like a concierge connecting homeowners with professionals who can fix all their property woes, from leaky pipes to fallen trees. The app sifts through contractors, collects estimates and schedules an appointment. With a strong presence in Toronto and $12 million raised so far, Setter has already expanded to San Francisco.


SomaDetect logo

SomaDetect

Location:
Fredericton
Notable Number:
2,920 per cent revenue growth from 2011 to 2016, per the 2017 PROFIT 500

The company makes optical sensors that give farmers real-time updates on dairy quality as cows are being milked. The technology can even spot signs of disease before an illness can ruin a big batch. The company recently received an investment from the Dairy Farmers of America, a co-operative of almost 15,000 farmers, and has added a second base in Buffalo, N.Y.