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12 incredible months in Canada’s most dynamic tech ecosystem

In Waterloo, the last 12 months have included new unicorns, a major investments Google and several globally-significant tech ecosystem rankings.

One of the great events in physics history is Albert Einstein’s “miracle year” – when he published four papers that revolutionized our fundamental understanding of the world around us. This work laid the foundation for a century of new discoveries and technological innovation.

In the future, despite the challenges of COVID-19, the people of Waterloo may remember the last 12 months as a sort of miracle year for the local tech ecosystem wherein the foundation for our own future was set.

From significant investments in our tech business community to continued recognition for our world-class talent, here are 10 events from the last year – in the midst of a pandemic – that highlight the resilience of an ecosystem on the rise:

Faire raises $150 million and becomes a unicorn

On October 30, 2019, retail innovator Faire announced $150 million in new funding through a Series D raise, achieving a valuation of $1 billion. Since that time, the company expanded into a new, larger local office – they’ve had a Waterloo-based HQ from day one – and raised an additional $170 million, increasing its valuation to $2.5 billion. The company has played a key role in helping many small businesses adapt and stay in businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Update: In June 2021, Faire announced a $260 million raise and a $7 billion valuation.

Waterloo is home to 3 fastest growing companies

On November 14, 2019, we reported that Waterloo-based companies had claimed the top three spots on the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 list, which ranks Canadian company by revenue-growth percentage over their last four years of operation. ApplyBoard, Intellijoint Surgical and Auvik Networks topped the list, with and Vidyard also making the top 50.

Update: Shortly after this article was published Deloitte’s newest list had two Waterloo-based companies at the top and 22% of the Technology Fast 50 located in our community.

CBRE says Waterloo is #1 in Canada for tech talent quality

On December 4, 2019, we reported that Waterloo had ranked fourth overall for tech talent and first in Canada for tech talent quality in the annual CBRE Canada Scoring Tech Talent 2019 rankings. The rankings showed that Waterloo is competitive with Canada’s biggest cities, offers substantial costs advantages over American cities and was experiencing nearly 40% 5-year growth in tech talent labour pool.

Canada’s first industry-led medtech hub opens

On January 15, 2020, the Medical Innovation Xchange – Canada’s first industry-led medtech hub – officially opened in Waterloo. The brainchild of Armen Bakirtzian, the founder of Intellijoint Surgical, the new hub counted four medtech companies as its initial cohort. More recently, University of Waterloo announced plans to open a health technology innovation centre, which will play a key role in the continued growth of the local health and medical technology business community.

Google doubles down on its Waterloo-based engineering HQ

On February 6, 2020, we reported that Google had announced plans for a significant new expansion in Waterloo, bringing the local workforce to 3,000 people and building a new office tower in Waterloo’s Innovation District. The company also announced the launch of Canada’s first Google for Startups Accelerator in Waterloo.

Waterloo's Tech Sector

Four Waterloo companies listed as potential tech unicorns

On February 12, 2020, we reported on the annual Narwhal List, which identifies companies with the growth profile needed to become a unicorn. This year, four Waterloo-based companies made the list, including North (recently acquired by Google), ApplyBoard, eSentire and Vidyard. This was the second straight year that Waterloo had four companies pegged as high-potential to become unicorns.

ApplyBoard raises $100 million to become Waterloo’s next unicorn

On May 5, 2020, just a few months after the Narwhal List was released, ApplyBoard announced that they had raised $100 million in Series C funding on a $2 billion valuation. Since that time, ApplyBoard has raised an additional $70 million as a Series C extension. The company is a true “Made in Waterloo” story, having touched upon just about every part of the support network – from local schools to incubators, accelerators and hubs.

Update: In June 2021, ApplyBoard announced a $375 million raise and a $4 billion valuation.

Waterloo named North America’s top emerging tech talent market

On July 15, 2020, we reported that CBRE had recognized Waterloo as North America’s fastest-growing “opportunity market” in its 2020 Scoring Tech Talent ranking. Waterloo came in just ahead of Huntsville, Alabama and Omaha, Nebraska in the “opportunity market” category, and is now challenging larger communities like Austin, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Detroit.

The University of Waterloo ranks #1 in computer science, engineering and mathematics

On October 16, 2020, we reported that Maclean’s Magazine – Canada’s top business publication – had released its annual university rankings with the University of Waterloo #1 in Canada for computer science, engineering and mathematics. The university, a long-time recruiting ground for companies in the Bay Area and Canada’s top technology school, was also rated third overall in Canada.

Update: QS Global University rankings has now placed the University of Waterloo in the world’s top-40 for Engineering and Technology and top-25 for computer science.

Arctic Wolf becomes Waterloo’s third unicorn in just 12 months

On October 27, 2020, we reported that cybersecurity innovator Arctic Wolf had announced $200 million in Series E funding at a $1.3 billion valuation. Despite having an American headquarters, the company has been in Waterloo from day one, one of the co-founders is a Waterloo resident and the largest office is in Waterloo. The company is planning substantial growth, with the Waterloo office remaining the Arctic Wolf’s primary engineering hub.

These are just the biggest headlines, too. We’ve also seen new raises at Otto Motors ($40M), Miovision ($120M), ProNavigator ($5.6M), Acerta Analytics ($5M), and Knowledgehook ($20M), to name a few. Waterloo was recognized as the fastest growing community in Canada.

Total investment in Velocity incubator graduates topped $1 billion and the University of Waterloo announced that its entrepreneurship programming had contributed more than $2 billion in economic impact. The Accelerator Centre was named Canadian Accelerator of the Year.

The last 12 months illustrates exactly why Waterloo is Canada’s most dynamic tech hub.

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