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From Startups to Tech Titans: The 10 Biggest Tech Companies in Waterloo

Waterloo's tech ecosystem is one of the best in the world. Learn how some of the biggest tech companies got their start in Waterloo and how much they've grown since then.

Waterloo has emerged as one of the top tech hubs in Canada, home to some of the world’s leading technology companies.

These companies, which we’ll explore in-depth below, have had an impact on our community in terms of cultivating top talent and strengthening our tech ecosystem. They’ve also brought revolutionary, innovative solutions to businesses and consumers around the world, forever changing the way people live and work.

Many were born out of the University of Waterloo, some arrived through international business expansion. But one thing they all have in common is an impressive growth story in which Waterloo has played a key part.

Let’s take a look at the 10 biggest technology companies in Waterloo (based on number of employees) and how they’ve grown over the years.

Editor’s note: Waterloo is made up of three cities and four townships that together make up our Waterloo community. We have identified where each company resides in our community in parentheses below.   

1. Google

Google (Kitchener) opened its first Canadian engineering office in Waterloo in 2005. The local team, which was only four employees at the time, focused on building mobile web applications before expanding to other Google products.

In 2015, Google opened a new office in Waterloo with a focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence research. They celebrated their new Canadian expansion at a grand opening event attended by Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. Google announced plans in 2020 to expand their Canadian workforce in Toronto, Montreal and Waterloo, with the goal to more than triple their workforce in Canada to 5,000 employees.

Today, Google’s Waterloo office is one of the largest engineering hubs outside the US with over a thousand employees working on a range of products and projects.

2. OpenText

OpenText (Waterloo) was founded in 1991 by a group of university researchers led by Tom Jenkins. The University of Waterloo partnered with Oxford University to create the first online Oxford English Dictionary and, out of that project, OpenText was born.

The company’s first major customer was the Canadian government, which used the software to manage its records and archives. In the late 1990s, OpenText expanded its offerings to include web content management and e-commerce solutions.

Today, OpenText is considered one of the largest software companies in Canada and a global leader in enterprise information management with over 14,000 employees working in 60+ offices worldwide, including its headquarters which has remained in Waterloo since the beginning.

3. BlackBerry

The famous Waterloo brand, BlackBerry (Waterloo), formerly known as Research In Motion (RIM), was established in 1984 by Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin.

The company’s first successful product was the Inter@ctive Pager, which allowed users to receive emails and messages on a small screen. In 2002, BlackBerry released its first smartphone, the BlackBerry 5810, which integrated email, messaging and phone capabilities.

Over the last decade, the company has since shifted its focus to providing enterprise software and services to organizations around the world, including many government agencies, and continues to be a leading competitor in cybersecurity.

4. SAP

SAP (Waterloo), a German multinational software corporation, opened its first Canadian location in Waterloo in 1997. The office initially focused on research and development for SAP’s business intelligence and analytics software.

In 2010, SAP acquired Sybase and integrated it into its enterprise software offerings and overall Canadian operations. In 2019, the company announced a significant investment in the community, including adding new jobs and office space.

SAP currently resides in the David Johnston Research & Technology Park in Waterloo and maintains a strong relationship with the University of Waterloo.

5. EPAM Systems

Co-founders Arkadiy Dobkin and Leo Lozner met in grade school. 20 years later, in 1993, they started EPAM Systems (Kitchener). EPAM, at first, was a small software development company with just three employees working in New Jersey at Arkadiy’s apartment before expanding their services in 2000.

Today, EPAM Systems provides digital transformation services and solutions to some of the biggest companies in the world – including Microsoft, Google, SAP and Adobe. It has 59,250+ employees, operates in 50+ countries and works in almost every industry.

EPAM recently opened a new office in our community and is already making a positive impact.

6. Oracle NetSuite

Oracle (Kitchener) entered the Waterloo tech scene in 1993 when it opened an office to focus on developing database technology and applications software.

In 2016, Oracle acquired cloud-based software company Netsuite for $9.3B, making it one of the largest tech acquisitions in history. The company has continued to grow and expand its presence in the community since the acquisition.

Oracle’s Waterloo office is now part of the company’s wider network of research and development centres focused on building software solutions for ERP, human capital management and supply chain management.

7. Desire2Learn (D2L)

D2L (Kitchener) was founded in 1999 by John Baker who was inspired by his school and family of educators to create a learning platform for all ages looking to extend their studies.

The company initially began as a software development consulting firm and then evolved into creating an online learning platform for higher education and K-12 schools. D2L has since expanded its product offerings to include employee development and training programs.

Today, the company is considered one of the top influential learning platforms in the learning management system market, serving more than 20 million learners in over 30 countries.

8. ApplyBoard

Brothers Martin, Meti and Massi Basiri founded ApplyBoard (Kitchener) in 2015 after experiencing challenges in applying to universities in North America while they were living in Iran.

They built an online platform that would help international students navigate the complicated process of applying to Canadian colleges and universities, which would later be expanded to include universities in the US, UK and Australia.

In 2019, ApplyBoard was ranked by Deloitte as the fastest growing tech company in Canada and has since become a well-recognized tech unicorn in the education technology industry. After their last raise the company was valued at $4 billion.

9. eSentire

The name eSentire (Waterloo) was inspired by the word “sentry” meaning “stand guard” and that’s what it does against cyber threats. The company was founded in 2001 by Eldon Sprickerhoff and has become one of the most recognized names in cybersecurity, particularly for its industry-leading Managed Detection and Response (MDR) services.

eSentire has experienced rapid growth and continues to show its strength. In the last three years alone, it has opened a new office, added headcount, expanded its services, announced strategic acquisitions and partnerships and achieved unicorn status for its $2.1B valuation in 2021.

10. Arctic Wolf

Founded in 2012, Arctic Wolf (Waterloo) started by providing managed IT services to small and medium-sized businesses in Waterloo. In 2015, the company began developing a cloud-based technology platform that combined human expertise with machine learning to provide 24/7 threat detection and response.

In the last few years, Arctic Wolf also joined Waterloo’s team of tech unicorns and has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in North America by Deloitte and one of the best places to work by Fortune magazine.

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