Canada is one of the countries with the largest concentration of professionals linked to the high-tech realm. The talent gathered by the country and the growing number of important equity fund investors joining the startups ecosystem have definitively boosted a key economic sector in Canada’s economy. The startup tecnologhy sector in Canada is concentrated: for example in 2013 twenty-one companies attracted 784 million Canadian dollars in terms of investment. Companies such as Shopify, an electronic trade provider in Ottawa, and social network manager Hootsuite, in Vancouver, made the list. Both companies are presently world leaders in their respective business areas. These are just two examples of resounding success, but thousands of startups are created throughout the country every year, which develop technological solutions to fulfill the needs of the society.

Mike McDerment, CEO of 2ndsite Inc., the software developer for Freshbooks, an accounting service on the cloud, points out that “the present situation has put an end to the myth of Canadian companies needing to establish their offices in Silicon Valley so as to grow and compete with the big players”. Shawn Chance, Marketing Vice President of Nymi, in Toronto, says that everything is crystal-clear: “several entrepreneurs are leaving Silicon Valley and coming to Toronto in order to establish their offices, as it’s becoming a hub of big companies”. John Stokes, cofounder of Montreal Real Ventures, a company specialized in start-up funds, backs up this idea and underscores that “Canada is being increasingly described as a place where big companies can be created”. In this scenario of technological leadership, PanamericanWorld sheds light on five representative examples of enterprising spirit, innovation, global vision and business success.


Shawn Chance, Nymi’s Marketing Vice president. Picture: Juan Gavasa /PanamericanWorld

City: Toronto

Founded: 2008

Number of employees: 35 Full Time

What does it do? The company has created a band that reads heartbeats and uses them as a personal identification or unique key.

The passwords to have access to our bank accounts or internet services have long been labeled a vulnerable and unsafe system. You could think that fingerprints are the perfect formula, but this system has also shown weakness as we leave our fingerprints everywhere on a daily basis, so they can be easily taken and used.

“However, our heartbeat is one of a kind and it cannot be copied”, Shawn Chance, Nymi’s Marketing Vice president, underlines. By following the trace of this physiological characteristic, this Toronto-based company has created a band that is put on the wrist of users and it picks up their heartbeats. That data is used as a unique key to access private services, and it only works when the owner is wearing it. Nymi is presently working with Canada’s Royal Bank in order to establish a link between its customers’ Mastercad accounts and this device. They are trying to leave the electronic signature behind, simplify processes and provide more security. The band, which costs 149 USD, is currently only used to activate computers, but the company is working to enhance its use.


Stuart Russell, You.I Engine’s Technology Director and cofounder. Picture: Juan Gavasa / PanamericanWorld

City: Ottawa

Founded: 2008

Number of employees: 200

What does it do? The company has created a user interface of disruptive technology that can be applied on any hardware platform.

A group of professionals from the videogame realm made a simple question: “Why do all platforms feature different navigation styles? So they agreed that if the user experience of each operative system could be standardize, customers would certainly be very happy. This question triggered a long research process, which brought about the development of a platform that allows device manufacturers provide intuitive and natural interfaces on devices running on any operative system. In other words, the same programming code for any platform.

Stuart Russell, Technology Director and cofounder of You.I Engine, points out that the difference when compared to other companies of the sector is related to the fact that “all workers are involved in all projects. Engineers and designers work at the same time and follow the process from the very beginning”. The company’s 50 engineers develop their projects on both IOS and Android at the same time, an element that, Russell says, “has not been implemented by other companies. You.I Engine works for Rogers, Adobe, Shomi or Corus and it has initiated its expansion to the US market.


Matei Paquin and Violanie Boucher, members of the Moment Factory team. Picture: Juan Gavasa / PanamericanWorld

City: Montreal

Founded: 2001

Number of employees: 150

What does it do? It creates multimedia environments that combine video, lighting design, architecture, animation, sound and special effects.

Video as a passive artistic expression has gone down in history. The new technologies give viewers the opportunity to interact and join the visual show, modify it and take part in the design. The founders of Moment Factory decided to take the video-graphic to a new stage and enhance its dimension so as to create multimedia environments where the limit is only established by technology. Matei Paquin says that the projects developed by them have been “a constant technological, creative and logistical challenge. The challenge is, for instance, to integrate programming algorithms in the creative design and establish the compatibility, so we can get you we want”.

Since its was founded, the company has produced over 300 shows, events and permanent exhibits. Paquin highlights the multimedia project developed at Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, the emblematic Gaudí building, or those produced in Montreal for Quartier des Spectacles. The list of customers includes such boldface names as Madonna, NFL, Canadian Arcade Fire or Cirque du Soleil. The company’s short-term plans include the opening of an office in London.


Ryan Holmes (left) founded Hootsuite startup back in 2008. It presently stands out as one of the four “Canadian Unicorns”.

City: Vancouver

Founded: 2008

Number of employees: Over 600.

What does it do? Hootsuite is a management system of social communication means.

Hootsuite was conceived by Ryan Holmes, an entrepreneur from Vernon BC, who developed a revolutionary interface to manage social networks with a single tool. Hootsuite is compatible with the main social networks: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare, MySpace, WordPress, TrendSpottr and Mixi. The company has presently been labeled one of the four “Unicorns” of Canada, the select club of startups valued at over one billion dollars.

The company has over 10 million users in 175 countries and it’s preparing the jump to Latin America. Celso Ferraz has just joined Hootsuite to lead the introduction of the brand in the Brazilian market. The free version has been taken by nearly a million and half users. Ferraz explains that “a team made up of 25 people are going to work over the next years to make the company’s brand grow in Latin America, especially in Brazil and Mexico, where we’re going to open offices”. The plans also include the expansion in Colombia and Argentina, where the product is already present. Hootsuite does not rule out the possibility to work in Cuba.


A part of NGrain’s team with Berry Po, Product Development Director, in the center. Picture: Juan Gavasa / PanamericanWorld

City: Vancouver

Founded: 2000

Number of employees: 30

What does it do? The company has developed a 3D analysis technology to be applied in such fields as medicine, energy, defense and aerospace industry.

Ngrain is a young company where the average employee age is 30. “Young people, fresh ideas”, Berry Po, Product Development Director, says. The team of the company’s laboratory studied different ways to apply 3D technology in different productive sectors and they developed a prototype that naturally joined industrial processes. For example, Ngrain is capable of monitoring the manufacture process of components and quickly detect possible mistakes.  Microsoft tests its Xbox models by means of the product’s capacity in terms of virtual analysis.

Nonetheless, the company’s most recent creation is a diagnosis product that gives doctors the possibility to identify a damaged organ of the human body in 3D, reconstruct it, analyze it and issue the diagnosis. Ngrain invested six months in this project, which was put on the map in December 2014 after a development process with the support of doctors and oncology specialists, who helped Ngrain’s developers identify the needs of their job. The software includes mobile and portable apps that allow specialists to establish remote connections.