When people think of “Finance” in Canada, minds go straight to Bay Street.
The same can be said for financial technology, where downtown Toronto houses the country’s largest hub of fintech startups by a wide margin. Ontario is home to a majority of Canada’s fintechs, including Shopify, Wealthsimple, Koho, Borrowell, and hundreds more.
Vancouver seldom wins direct competition with Toronto in this regard but the West Coast has a reputation for succeeding when going its own way. The region’s fintech ecosystem is less than one-third of Toronto’s in terms of raw size, but there is ample vibrancy and local personality in the startups choosing to launch and scale in BC.
Last year, we observed that “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.”
We highlighted five BC-based fintechs ready to perform in 2023: Blossom Social, Finhaven, Wecasa, Parvis, and APOLLO Insurance.
This fine selection showcases the city’s variety, but it is hardly an exhaustive tally of Vancouver’s fintech ecosystem. There are many we did not include—such as Billi Labs and Lynk—as well as others which have already sprouted since then, including Kevin Sandhu’s Otter.
Billi Labs was created in 2022 by a “team of financial experts, designers, and developers across Canada,” including chief executive Ty Sinclair and operating officer Dan Barton, who is based out of Victoria. Through innovation and automation, “we want to transform the relationship people have with their money,” the BC founders say.
The digital platform launched by Bill Labs aims for Canadians to be “mindful” with their money. Users link financial cards and accounts to the encrypted app to gain an understanding of their transactions and manage their finances from a single interface.
Meanwhile Lynk is targeting startups, small businesses, and the gig economy with its new fintech platform. The company claims to offer the lowest processing fees in the industry and provides immediate access to revenue unlike traditional platforms.
“Credit card fees and building customer loyalty are two of the biggest challenges for small business owners,” believes CEO Nabi Awada. “Lynk’s branded payment solution enables businesses to own the payment experience—the same way Starbucks owns their payment ecosystem with their branded wallet, which costs millions of dollars to develop.”
As part of its launch in 2022, Lynk raised $3 million in seed capital.
And then there is Otter, which is on a mission to make self-employment easier and “help turn passions into successful businesses.” The Vancouver startup claims to combine three critical services—banking, accounting, and legal—into a single digital interface.
“With Otter, you have a dedicated banker, accountant and lawyer for you and your business at your fingertips,” a launch statement from the startup reads. “We help you save time and money that you can spend doing the things you love instead of managing your finances and business administration.”
The platform promises “free business and personal banking in a single unified experience, fully automated taxes and bookkeeping, and even the ability to incorporate your business and handle all the paperwork that comes along with it,” including a smart payments card with rewards and cash back.
We can also look forward to Ever.ca, which provides a banking app that “allows you to save more, win more, and open up a world of rewards.” The company has already caught the interest of Techstars.
“With Ever, you get the chance to win big just by saving,” the startup says. “We pool together a portion of the interest from high value banks and offer it via prizes through weekly number draws—we also take a portion and pay it to you no matter what.”
Cofounded by Jeremy Kuo and Brandon Wang, Ever’s zero-fee, no-minimum account is expected to launch this year.
And who can forget about Vancouver’s expanding crypto-based ecosystem?
Around an armada of cryptocurrencies 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 to enable the Metaverse, which locals believe Vancouver may be at the forefront of.
Local fintech companies disrupting this complex web of spaces include WonderFi, Blockstream, and Mogo.
Finally, let’s take a quick peek at Hero Innovation Group, which recently launched a financial literacy platform for Canadian youth.
The full-service alternative-to-banking solution allows kids and teens to make their own spending decisions. The solution is paired with SideKick, a prepaid Mastercard that equips kids with financial literacy skills.
“Hero Financials is the perfect turnkey solution for Canadian youth that compliments their journey towards gaining financial independence, while also helping parents support and pass on those valuable skills to their kids,” posits Peter MacKay, CEO of Hero. “We identified a critical gap in the sector’s ability to meet the financial goals and needs of Canadian youth and GenZers, a segment that now comprises a fourth of our population.”
Overall, Vancouver fintechs are lean and active, and often balance social aspects alongside financial and technology. It is perhaps a reflection of the local lifestyle—when people think of “Fitness” in Canada, minds go straight to Vancouver.
One thing is clear: BC’s fintechs are innovative, disruptive, and growing in size and number by the day.
Vancouver, where the fit and socially minded launch fintech startups, is a Canadian market to watch.
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