Edmonton's startup community is expecting 2022 to offer more clarity for the ecosystem, a surge of grassroots gatherings and initiatives, and opportunities to build upon successes from 2021.
Last year brought a variety of changes, including the establishment of Innovate Edmonton, the end of TEC Edmonton, leadership changes at Startup Edmonton, a new mayor, and a more diverse and progressive city council. As the full effects of those changes come to fruition, the startup community will continue to build while navigating pandemic conditions.
"In many ways, the past two years have made the world smaller," Ashlyn Bernier, COO at samdesk, told Taproot. The company raised a Series A funding round without one in-person meeting to facilitate the process.
"Prior to 2020, that would be unheard of," Bernier said. "Now, the market for investment and talent for Edmonton companies has expanded drastically — our geographic isolation has held us back in the past, but I believe 2022 will further demonstrate that it's less about where you are and more about what you're building."
She's also looking forward to a return to in-person events as the local innovation community grows.
"One of the things I love most about this community, and miss, is that we truly enjoy spending time together and learning from each other," Bernier said, adding that in-person interactions would "facilitate deeper and more meaningful community engagement and consultation."
Zack Storms, co-founder of Startup TNT, agrees that gathering once again will be a highlight, despite the fact that the Omicron variant may put a damper on local events in early 2022.
The YEG Startup Community Awards will be back in May, and Edmonton Global is organizing an economic showcase event in March. The Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute will also be hosting its first AI Week in the spring. Plus, a large contingent of local startups plans to travel to the Uniting the Prairies conference in Saskatchewan and Inventures in Calgary.
Storms said that given the new accelerators that will also be up and running, Startup TNT's goal will be to syndicate deals into at least five to 10 seed-stage Edmonton companies in 2022, totalling over $1 million for local startups. It will also host a Life Sciences Summit, a Cleantech Summit, and two TNT Investment Summits.
Arden Tse, investment manager for Yaletown Partners, is also expecting to see growth throughout the ecosystem.
"Our own fund saw less opportunities in Edmonton in 2021 for B2B/enterprise technology raises, but with the presence of several new accelerators in the province, we're anticipating more early-stage opportunities to emerge this year," he told Taproot.
Tse added that there was notable activity for later-stage financing in 2021, and with the number of seed raises of the past two years, there should be a healthy number of companies growing successfully and looking to launch their Series A rounds in 2022.
"The people in our community are resilient and know that it's up to us to create the economy we want to live in. I've seen entrepreneurs continue to build and investors continuing to invest regardless of the economic or political environment. This attitude should continue well into 2022 and beyond," Tse explained.
"Edmonton's technology sector will succeed for the same reason Edmontonians succeed — a culture of rolling up our sleeves, putting our heads down, and just doing the work."