COVID-19 has levelled the global economy, killing hundreds of millions of jobs and racking up some $8.5 trillion in losses. In Canada, it’s increasingly clear that this country’s stable of promising startups will play a big part in driving its recovery.
This week, the World Economic Forum announced its 20th cohort of Technology Pioneers, an unmatched collection of startups and scale-ups with the greatest potential to improve international prosperity and well-being. Among them: six Canadian companies doing incredible things like providing AI-powered risk assessments, affording digital identities to the impoverished, and removing carbon from the air we breathe. This also marks the first time Canadian startups have ever made the list.
Canadian tech is growing three times faster than any other industry in the country, signifying 12 percent of the GDP and 10 percent of the employee base. Canada is also routinely listed as a top draw for foreign talent, and our public-private institutions consistently rank among the world’s best. But what’s most striking about Canada’s innovation ecosystem is its mission to foster both wealth and social good, at home and abroad. We see examples of it every day — a cleantech startup forgoing profit to source and distribute millions of masks to North American hospitals; a health company partnering with foreign governments and airlines to track the spread of the coronavirus; and many other firms rewriting the charitable playbook.
The COVID-19 emergency has reminded us that no one sector is capable of advancing financial growth and scientific discovery. It’s also shown us that our greatest problems (disease, climate change, poverty) are more tightly intertwined than ever. That’s why I’m so proud of this achievement. The Canadian startups highlighted below — diverse in their make-up, yet united in their cause — are some of our best and brightest. I’m thrilled that the World Economic Forum has invited them to its Global Innovators Community, a prestigious platform allowing members to serve as thought leaders at international events, as well as court new investment from backers far beyond North America. And I can’t wait to see how they will use this opportunity to collaborate and lead on the international stage.
Related Article: Five Tech Startups that can Help Canada’s Industries Pivot
Axonify: empowering front-line workers
Headquarters: Waterloo, Ont.
What it does: Axonify trains and educates front-line employees (such as healthcare providers, retail associates and delivery drivers) through games and learning modules that improve skills and business results. The company’s big-name clients operate in more than 150 countries and represent close to three million users.
Why it’s important: Front-liners are 80 percent of the world’s workforce — they are the fuel that drives the global economy. As the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated, society is only as strong as the workers keeping it running.
MindBridge: keeping finance safe and secure
What it does: MindBridge uses AI and machine learning to detect anomalous patterns across financial data sets, assess risks and eliminate financial crimes. That helps clients minimize loss, increase transparency and keep transactions secure.
Why it’s important: In times of crisis, nothing quite provides peace of mind like financial security. Used by governments, auditors and non-profits, MindBridge’s tech is increasingly essential as the world becomes more interconnected.
Trulioo: giving the disadvantaged digital identities
What it does: Trulioo provides secure access to hundreds of identity networks around the globe to help financial institutions meet compliance requirements, mitigate fraud and increase trust. In seconds, customer identity can be verified online, no matter the location.
Why it’s important: The startup’s product isn’t just useful for large organizations. In developing countries, more than two billion people have no traditional documentation, making it impossible for them to benefit from something as simple as a bank account. By assuring these individuals a digital identity, Trulioo is making financial services fairer and more inclusive.
Carbon Engineering: tackling CO2 emissions
Headquarters: Squamish, B.C.
What it does: Carbon Engineering captures CO2 directly from the atmosphere in vast amounts, so that it can be permanently stored underground or converted into ultra-low carbon synthetic fuels. It’s an incredibly holistic solution — cleaning the planet, guiding the private sector toward net-zero goals and delivering affordable energy.
Why it’s important: The United Nations estimates we have less than 10 years before our environmental damage becomes irreversible. For the sake of our own health and the well-being of future generations, we need to adopt and invest in as many green innovations as possible.
Polystyvert: overcoming our plastic problem
What it does: Polystyvert recycles polystyrene (that ubiquitous white material used in takeout containers, packaging and countless other products) into valuable plastics. The startup’s dissolution process is considered a game-changer, capable of recycling all types of polystyrene — expanded, extruded or injection-moulded.
Why it’s important: The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Harmful to manufacture and chemically-deadly to ecosystems, plastics like polystyrene must eventually disappear. But to bridge that gap, we need to increase recycling immediately and create financial incentives for corporations to follow suit.
Two Hat Security: blocking abuse on social networks
Headquarters: Kelowna, B.C.
What it does: Two Hat Security filters and manages more than 30 billion interactions a month, including messages, usernames, images and videos in real time. This form of moderation ensures clients safe and healthy content experiences.
Why it’s important: The web is still rife with cyberbullying, abuse, hate speech and child exploitation. Two Hat Security allows users — particularly our most vulnerable populations — to enjoy internet entertainment and education as it is meant to be enjoyed.