The province of Ontario, and more specifically the region of greater Toronto, is Canada’s ultimate financial technology hotspot.
In fact, it’s one of the biggest fintech hubs in the world. And as Canadians, we are proud of that.
However, often living in the shadow of Canada’s financial epicentre are tech-forward startups hustling hard in areas like Vancouver without much recognition—inside smaller ecosystems whose entrepreneurs are no less innovative than their Toronto counterparts.
Following up Fintech.ca’s Early-Stage Fintech Startups Ready to Blossom in Canada, Techcouver highlights some of the newer fintechs in BC, who carry with them exciting momentum into a turbulent new year.
Vancouver fintech startup Blossom publicly launched on the App Store in May.
The social network for retail investors, the first of its kind available to Canadians, received pre-seed investment round from Pareto Holdings, a venture fund co-founded by Shutterstock founder Jon Oringer.
Blossom bills itself as unique from existing social networks because it links to a user’s brokerage account, making it easy to share portfolio and trading activity. Users can follow friends and top investors and get notified of their trades in real time, discovering new investment ideas from a community where opinions are backed up by performance.
“Investing is inherently social,” Maxwell Nicholson, Blossom co-founder and CEO, stated earlier this year. “The new generation of investors learn about stocks from group chats, Reddit, and Discord. Blossom aims to displace these channels by creating a platform built specifically for investors.”
Unlike Reddit and Discord, where opinions aren’t backed by data or performance, on Blossom, investors link their brokerage accounts and showcase a public profile of their portfolio and returns.
“I’m so proud of everything the team has accomplished in the last year and am excited to share what we’ve built with the world,” says Nicholson, who left his job at consulting firm McKinsey & Company to start Blossom during the Covid-19 Pandemic. “When stocks are going down there is also a lot of panic selling that goes on, and being part of a strong and knowledgable investor community is a good way to avoid making emotional investing decisions.”
In August, Blossom was one of three Canadian startups selected for a Google Accelerator.
Finhaven Private Markets this year announced Canada’s first securitized Non-Fungible Token.
“At Finhaven, we do not see things from a perspective of legacy-versus-web3 world,” Dohyung Kim, CEO and founder of Finhaven, explained in June. “We believe that blockchain technology can improve and modernize traditional financial markets and we are building the platform for it.”
NFT trading thus far has carried regulatory, legal, ownership, and intellectual property risks, according to Kim. Securitization solves some problems and offers additional consumer protection, he notes.
Finhaven was founded in 2017 in Vancouver, where web3 startups are all the rave.
In 2018 the BC startup raised a US$5 million Series A round led by Dunamu & Partners.
Since then the company has built a capital markets platform on Distributed Ledger Technology with a goal of simplifying financial markets to drive innovation using blockchain.
A startup has sprouted in Vancouver looking to fix what founder Mark Proudfoot calls “broken”: the current model for vacation home ownership.
“The most desirable second homes sit empty most of the year and are financially out of reach for most people,” Proudfoot said in a statement about his latest venture, Wecasa.
“Other options like timeshares are cookie cutter, inflexible, and notoriously difficult to finance and sell,” he added.
Wecasa’s mission is to make vacation home ownership “affordable and effortless,” according to Proudfoot, which will be possible “through a tech-enabled end-to-end co-ownership solution that we’ve designed specifically for Canadians.”
Launched in partnership with Conconi Growth Partners, WeCasa intends to offer a digital experience that “simplifies the entire ownership journey.”
First, browse homes in top Canadian and US destinations. Next is flexible financing—through Wecasa’s partner bank, your own bank, or good old cash. From there you can use Wecasa’s app to book stays.
To streamline the experience, Wecasa says it “handles everything” from insurance, taxes, and bill payments to landscaping, pool maintenance, and repairs.
“We believe that systemic shifts like flexible work and baby boomers retiring at unprecedented rates will continue to create growing demand for a finite amount of second home inventory,” Proudfoot said earlier this month. “By introducing co-ownership to the Canadian market, we will increase the utilization of high-cost luxury homes, which in turn will reduce the number of buyers competing for single-family vacation dwellings at more affordable price points.”
Parvis raised $2.6 million to launch a blockchain-based platform designed to modernize the investing process and unlock real estate opportunities.
“Access to institutional real estate investment has long been an opportunity reserved for an elite few, and the industry is ripe for technological disruption,” said David Michaud, one of the founders of Parvis.
Michaud cofounded Parvis alongside Drew Green, Conan Graham, and Jas Bagry in 2019.
Enabled by blockchain technology, the BC company “makes finding, tracking, and maximizing investments an experience that is both frictionless and empowering,” according to a statement from the startup.
“Investors are increasingly looking to find refuge from inflationary pressures in the economy in solid real estate investment opportunities that combine liquidity and diversification,” said Green, who you may know from Indochino. “These are fast-changing times in prop-tech, and with Parvis, we are on the leading edge of the transformation.”
Like Addy Invest, Parvis claims to out-compete REITs with a superior and more custom selection of properties, as well as lower investing fees. However, Parvis intends to target accredited investors rather than the layman, as well as leverage blockchain technology.
According to Michaud, the $2.6 million will go toward investing in the technology necessary to build both a platform and marketplace for accredited investors “that will allow the industry to evolve in exciting ways.”
Parvis was recently named a ready-to-blossom startup by Fintech.ca.
Financial technology startups such as Apollo modernize the insurance process thoroughly, leaving nary a hint of the ways of old.
“Our digital-forward approach eliminates traditional paper-based processes by leveraging extensive data and intelligent algorithms to quote, collect payment, and issue policies—all without human intervention,” Chloe Lyons, Director of Recruitment for Apollo, explained to Tech Talent Canada.
“Apollo is making the insurance buying process effortless, in line with modern consumers’ expectations,” Jeff McCann, CEO and cofounder, stated last year following a Series B round of financing for his company.
The Vancouver-based insur-tech firm runs policy purchases through its APOLLO Exchange, the company’s embedded proprietary platform. Lyons told Tech Talent Canada that this digital-forward approach is “fast, easy, and redefining insurance distribution.” It’s a transformation that is sweeping Canada’s entire financial technology sector.
Small wonder then that Apollo was announced runner-up in KPMG’s 2022 Tech Innovator for Canada.
Competing against three dozen top-tier startups across the country, Apollo impressed the panel of judges, which included Samanta Jovanovic, Executive Director at Start Alberta; Marc Low, Ignition Vancouver Lead at KPMG in Canada; and Andrew Kiguel, CEO at Tokens.com.
The inaugural competition last year saw Canadian finalist Certn compete for the title at the Global Finals and place third overall out of 17 participating countries.
Certn, based out of Victoria, has a lot of momentum. Using artificial intelligence, Certn provides fast, compliant, and affordable background checks to employers, contractors, property managers, and the gig economy.
Most recently, this fintech honourable mention was one of only two BC firms ranked among the Vector Institute’s inaugural Vector AI20 for 2023.