The Victoria Tech Community Awards are back with more nominations and finalists than ever before. From nearly 200 nominations, 59 finalists from 47 companies were selected across 10 award categories.
The growth of the Victoria Tech Community Awards reflects the momentum of Vancouver Island as a source of entrepreneurship in BC.
Historically the island has not been considered a major startup hub—within BC, it was downtown Vancouver or bust. However, times are changing.
Digital startups and virtual workplaces, plus freer flowing capital, have nearly eliminated the physical constraints that might have once held back entrepreneurship in a region like Victoria.
For example, local companies like Certn have shown access to funding does not have to be a barrier: earlier this year the Victoria-based firm secured USD$50 million in Series B funding.
TechTalent.ca ranks Victoria as Canada’s 7th largest “tech city,” just behind big-hitters Calgary and Montreal. While the city has fewer than 100,000 full-time residents, the region employs more than 10,000 tech workers, according to CBRE.
Techcouver decided to highlight some of the area’s hot startups.
The ocean has a lot to tell us—but how to listen, and what to do in response, isn’t always obvious. Enter Dr. Scott Beatty’s MarineLabs Data Systems, a Victoria-based coastal intelligence company.
This BC startup has created smart technology that can be attached to any floating surface that monitors wave activity wherever their sensors are located.
CoastAware, the company’s flagship technology, is used by clients like the Port of Prince Rupert, the University of Victoria, the Government of Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, and BC Ferries. Last year a First Nation began collaborating with MarineLabs to gain a better understanding of ongoings in the Sooke Basin.
Clean-tech rising star MarineLabs is gaining data on the Sooke Basin through its CoastAware “smart buoys,” which are able to detect wind speed, wave size, vessel traffic, and water salinity and temperature. T’Sou-ke Nation Chief Gordon Planes believes that the insight from MarineLabs’ work will “set a foundation for the future.”
With a PHD in Ocean Wave Energy and Ocean Engineering from the University of Victoria, Dr. Beatty leveraged his love of the ocean and his scientific training to launch MarineLabs and develop solutions for those needing to design breakwaters, harbours, ports, marinas, and more.
He founded the company in 2017.
Prior to the pandemic, 3.8 million Canadians experienced depression and anxiety in a given year. During the pandemic this number doubled to over 7 million. 500,000 Canadians miss work each week due to mental health reasons.
The economic impact of mental health conditions on the economy is $51 billion per year and it doesn’t account for anguish experienced by families and sufferers.
Co-founded by Jason Cridge and Armon Arani in 2021, Cognito Health is on a mission to change the way mental healthcare is provided to all Canadians.
Cognito’s unique model involves a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and medication which have been shown to be the most effective treatment for depression and anxiety.
Their platform also offers digital assessments, nursing visits, physician visits, counselling, coaching, self directed courses, medication delivery, and daily affirmations all under one pricing plan.
Victoria’s Cognito Health closed a $1.1 million pre-seed round led by Garage Capital this year.
Audette’s end-to-end platform captures data to identify and assess opportunities for low-carbon building improvements and helps building owners source financing and incentives that reduce the cost of retrofit projects by up to 90%.
Late last year, Victoria clean-tech startup Audette raised a $1 million seed round led by Active Impact Investments with participation from Powerhouse Ventures, Panache Ventures, and Turnham Green Capital. Building on the BC startup’s seed round, another $12.8 million came in November.
“With the impacts of climate change growing more apparent, the need for low-carbon planning has never been greater,” Christopher Naismith, founder of Audette, stated last year.
Commercial real estate makes up 20% of global carbon emissions “and is far behind on the road to decarbonization,” the Canadian company explains.
“Retrofitting the built environment represents an enormous opportunity for rapid decarbonization,” the CEO said, “and Audette is helping asset managers realize these ambitions.”
The Canadian Food Innovation Network recently announced some investments.
More than $500,000 in funding, issued through the organization’s Innovation Booster program, is targeted for “innovative solutions that have the potential to reduce emissions, increase domestic production, and establish Canada as a global leader in new and emerging food sectors,” according to Canadian Food Innovation Network CEO Joseph Lake.
The BC project receiving investment is Cascadia Seaweed. Located in Sidney near Victoria, Cascadia Seaweed seeks to extend the shelf-life of fresh seaweed while developing and scaling processes that can help Canada produce more value-added innovative seaweed products for international markets.
“As pressure mounts over arable land and populations continue to rise, we must recognize opportunities within the Blue Economy to produce products while adapting to climate change,” stated Susan Levang, the company’s vice president of Brand Operations.
With no agricultural land requirements, seaweed presents a sustainable food crop opportunity with growing global demand, according to Levang. Canada currently plays a small role in the global export of these products, but as the seaweed sector continues to mature, Canada has the potential to become an industry leader, she believes.
“Receiving this grant from the Canadian Food Innovation Network will help us engage in innovative processing trials to continue building trust with consumers while developing improved ways of processing our cultivated, climate-positive seaweed crop for human consumption,” Levang noted.
In total, the program has invested $1.5 million into 17 projects since 2021, such as Surrey’s Canadian Pacifico Seaweeds.
Bootstrapped Victoria startup MeepMeep is in the business of smart disc golf accessories hardware. Its first product is a stick-on, smartphone-connected tracker device designed to help disc golfers save time by finding lost discs faster.
“Growing up playing disc golf in the world-class courses we have here on the West Coast, I’ve always loved the sport,” cofounder Eve Olynyk, who graduated from the University of Victoria, stated earlier this year. “Now with the explosion of disc golf, there has never been a more exciting time to be in this space.”
MeepMeep’s tracker is tiny at five millimetres thick and weighing in at just seven grams. An accompanying app alerts players when needed.
“Unlike annoying, forever-on beepers which interrupt the serenity of your game, this smart disc golf accessory will only ring when you need it to,” the startups website reads.
Olynyk believes there is ample room for hardware startups to launch and grow on Vancouver Island.
“While Greater Victoria’s software tech success story has long been discussed, we’re only recently seeing the hardware space grow and we’re incredibly proud to be one of the companies taking part in this moment,” she said.