Edmonton's tech ecosystem wraps up stellar year, anticipates more growth in 2022

From startups to scaleups, pivots, new investments, and funding announcements, Edmonton's tech ecosystem flourished in 2021 despite the pandemic.

"Edmonton was recently named the fastest-growing tech sector in North America (by CBRE)," Catherine Warren, CEO of Innovate Edmonton, told Taproot. "And we are one of the top three cities globally for affordable tech talent, with over 50% growth in our talent pool in the past five years," she continued.

"Currently, there are more than 930 startups and scaleups in the region, working on solutions to some of the world's biggest issues, including pandemic recovery, clean energy, and digital equality."

This past year saw the city crack the top 50 on CBRE's list of the top tech talent markets in North America; female entrepreneurs Ashlyn Bernier and Abby Aiyeleye were honoured for their contributions and success in the industry; new startups like Llearner and Zipstall grew; AltaML announced a collaboration to help students gain experience with AI projects; TalkMaze founder Ghalia Aamer represented the city internationally; and Future Fields shipped its first commercial project and raised $2.2 million in seed funding.

Many other local entrepreneurs also raised financing to grow their businesses: Showbie announced that it raised an additional $7.5 million in Series A financing in February; G2V Optics secured $2.6 million in growth capital; QuoteToMe raised $2.5 million to scale up; dealcloser secured $1.75 million; and more.

Plus, TEC Edmonton shut down at the end of June to reflect the needs of the evolving tech sector; the first YEG Startup Community Awards were hosted; and Startup TNT organized Investment Summits III and IV, resulting in more than $2 million invested in Prairie companies.

PulseMedica's Nir Katchinskiy celebrates winning the Startup TNT Investment Summit IV.

PulseMedica's Nir Katchinskiy celebrates winning the Startup TNT Investment Summit IV alongside Startup TNT co-founders Zack Storms and Tim Lynn, as well as city councillor Keren Tang. (Steven Csorba)

Innovate Edmonton is also celebrating one year. The not-for-profit corporation was established with a $5-million budget and a mandate to make innovation a major economic driver in the city.

Among its successes in 2021, the innovation entity partnered with the provincial and federal governments to fund three new world-class accelerators; teamed up with Platform Calgary to fund and launch Alberta's pre-accelerator with new programs for early-stage founders; and started mapping the city's innovation ecosystem.

"You could say that the pandemic has turned us all into innovators and has changed how we work, raise capital, inspire teams, and deliver goods," Warren told Taproot. "It's a great time to be a startup in Edmonton and to raise money. Edmonton is a leader in Series A funding with the median raise of $4.2 million, compared to the global average of $2.7 million."

Innovate Edmonton also acquired and integrated Startup Edmonton as well as programs from TEC Edmonton, and launched two new program divisions: Scaleup Edmonton and Accelerate Edmonton.

Looking ahead to 2022, it plans to focus on "big tent innovation."

"What we mean by this is that innovation cuts across all sectors and includes innovators of all stripes," Warren explained. "As all businesses increasingly become tech-enabled, we can differentiate Edmonton as a city of innovators, with innovations in sustainability, arts and culture, place-making, resource and knowledge economies, and more."

Innovate Edmonton will also work with the City of Edmonton to develop plans for a new innovation fund and support the city's Economic Action Plan while focusing its efforts on sustainability.

We'll also be looking back at 2021 and what's to come in the year ahead in our Health Innovation Roundup on Dec. 15. Read it here.