Despite a current downturn, the global cryptocurrency market remains active and fascinating to say the least—and a trend with enough traction to grab the attention of virtually all companies.
Blockchain-based digital assets “have risen on the radars of boards over the last few years as digital currencies are adopted into mainstream payment flows and central banks across the world,” Dottie Schindlinger, Executive Director of the Diligent Institute, noted earlier this month.
Led by the original Bitcoin more than a decade ago, dozens to hundreds of other coins have since saturated the market. Around this armada of currencies and blockchains, there has blossomed an ecosystem of startups paving intersections of once-distinct technologies: the combination of web3, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and hardware advances just to enable the Metaverse, for example.
In Canada, we see a range of startups tackling a variety of challenges across crypto and web3. Indeed, one recent study found Canada to be among the most “crypto-ready” countries in the world, just behind Germany.
According to a poll conducted by KPMG, 13% of Canadians have purchased crypto assets such as bitcoin. The biggest investors are younger Canadians; one quarter of 18- to 24-year-olds have purchased crypto assets.
Fun fact: Canada has the second-most crypto ATMs in the world—nearly 1,500!—and per capita. And of course we also have a lot of crypto-ready companies.
Here we highlight a handful of blockchain-oriented upstarts hailing from within the borders of British Columbia.
Big Whale Labs
Big Whale Labs is using web3 technologies to reimagine what digital identity could be by building a social protocol to facilitate pseudonymity through crypto.
“Open blockchains such as Ethereum are public ledgers,” cofounder Nikita Kolmogorov explained earlier this month. “There are tons of privacy tradeoffs associated with open blockchains.”
“Our goal with Big Whale Labs is to enhance how web3 communities interact on web2 platforms and to also introduce new mechanisms that are completely native to web3 like owning fractional identities and pseudonymous but verified credentials,” stated cofounder Jason Kim last year.
The Vancouver-based web3 startup recently secured capital from M13 and Road, with participation from Slow Ventures, C2, Goodwater, Panache, NFR, and angel investors. The BC company plans to use the funding to accelerate product development.
Vancouver-based WonderFi, a financial technology startup which recently launched launched on the Toronto Stock Exchange as WNDR, is one of Canada’s leading crypto asset trading platforms.
Registered with the Canadian Securities Administrators, WonderFi this year acquired two major competitors: Toronto’s Coinberry for $38 million and BitBuy, founded in 2016. Neither transaction was easy or simple from a regulatory standpoint considering the uncharted legal territory.
Now, however, the Kevin O’Leary-backed WonderFi is a worthy contender in Canada and increasingly on the global stage.
“Bringing together the Coinberry and Bitbuy teams under the WonderFi umbrella has created one of the largest combined compliant and licensed crypto companies in Canada,” noted Andrei Poliakov, Head of Brokerages for WonderFi.
Victoria-based Bitcoin infrastructure firm Blockstream last year raised US$210 million in Series B financing, which granted the startup unicorn status.
The new capital accelerated Bitcoin mining efforts and the scaling of Liquid Network, a Bitcoin sidechain.
Blockstream was founded by Dr. Adam Back and a group of developers passionate for Bitcoin and its potential to transform money. In 2014 the startup raised US$21 million in seed funding; in 2016 they raised a US$57 million Series A round.
Vancouver-born Mogo provides a platform where clients can earn satoshis for free with every purchase on their MogoCard, earning what the company describes as “climate-positive bitcoin.” The BC startup achieves this by planting trees to offset more CO2 than the emissions created from mining the bitcoin traded on its platform.
The company also acquires cryptocurrency for its reserves, owning nearly two dozen Bitcoin and almost 200 Ethereum.
Chief financial officer Greg Feller says Mogo holds firm a “belief in the long-term potential of blockchain technology and its position as a core component of a next generation financial technology platform.”
It is difficult not to include Dapper Labs, the Vancouver-based crypto unicorn that made a huge splash this past year for its popular NFT launches, which have featured several sports leagues, including the NBA, UFC, NFL, and LaLiga. The company is worth a lot based on a round of financing last year.
This year Dapper launched Flow, its own blockchain, alongside a fund to support Flow’s ecosystem.
Dapper Labs told CNBC its mission is to “drive mainstream adoption of decentralized technologies where everything is transparent, auditable, and accessible to everyone.”