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Meet Canada's future economic stars

Ian Evans - MaRS I July 22, 2020

The stat speaks for itself: in the past four months, telemedicine venture Dialogue has created 400 new jobs. With virtual care replacing a trip to the doctor’s office for many patients, the Montreal-based company scaled up quickly, recruiting scores of physicians, nurses, therapists, developers and salespeople to meet the demand. The company has seen its revenues grow exponentially and has tripled in size since March.

The circumstances of Dialogue’s astonishing expansion, in such a short time frame, are unique to the pandemic, but its potential to scale is not. Canada has dozens of established tech ventures like Dialogue that are experiencing rapid growth. These companies, which already have innovative products in the market and strong revenue streams, will play an outsized role in Canada’s future economic performance by creating jobs and supplying the technologies and science that will enable large corporations and industries to thrive post-pandemic economy.

But the journey from late-stage startup to mature company is a difficult one and one that is not frequently travelled by Canadian companies. Fast-growing ventures face a number of challenges as they expand to new markets. To help these future drivers of Canadian prosperity make this transition, MaRS has created Momentum. This new program will support Canadian ventures with the aim of accelerating each toward $100 million in revenues within 5 years.

If these companies maintain a 20 percent annual growth rate for the next five years, they will add some 9,000 new high-paying jobs. Krista Jones, Momentum’s founding executive, stresses that she is not creating a narwhal list or supporting companies that go for growth at any cost, however. “The companies we have selected are being built on Canadian values. They are growing in sustainable, profitable ways, solving urgent issues and creating the kind of good jobs Canada needs,” she said. In fact, Momentum companies are working toward solutions for all 17 of the sustainable development goals outlined by the United Nations.

The Momentum companies operate in a range of sectors that have a major impact on the world. Hydrostor, GreenMantra and CarbonCure are helping make environmental sustainability a reality. Borrowell is advancing financial inclusion and BioConnect is helping companies keep their buildings and data secure. Meanwhile, Magnovate is bringing our vast country together with new high-speed transit systems, and pharmaceutical firm Highland Therapeutics is developing technology that improves the performance of existing medications.  The companies in the Momentum portfolio boast rich intellectual property in many areas in tech and science — from high-definition vector mapping to educational software to energy-grid optimization.

Despite having vibrant startup clusters that have turned cities like Toronto and Waterloo into magnets for talent, Canada only has a handful of tech companies that have achieved significant size internationally. Firms like Shopify, which recently became Canada’s most valuable company, are rare exceptions to a pattern that sees many promising ventures being acquired by larger companies — in 70 percent of cases American ones — before they scale. As a result, few Canadian executives have experience guiding a company from tens of millions in revenues to hundreds of millions.

Momentum is designed to help change that. The program, which is funded by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, works closely with senior executives from each company and provides strategic support around issues like attracting talent, raising capital and expanding to global markets. The goal is to help these executives turn their high-potential companies into high-growth powerhouses that will build jobs and intellectual property in Canada, while exporting Canadian innovations around the world.

Canada excels in highly specialized areas, such as advanced manufacturing, robotics, blockchain and artificial intelligence. These were coming to the fore before COVID-19 but the pandemic is almost certain to accelerate the shift toward automation that these technologies enable. “The focus is on these ‘deep tech’ sectors and that plays to our strengths,” said Jones. “Now, conditions are right for Canadian companies to take the next step and scale rapidly.”


Founder and CEO: Hossein Rahnama Year founded: 2011 Capital raised: $50 million (U.S.) Number of employees: 74-149

In a nutshell: Flybits helps banks personalize their online customer communications. Its technology easily embeds in their websites and mobile apps and integrates insights from multiple sources of data. The company also provides content creation and targeting tools that enable marketing teams to deliver special offers tailored to each user’s circumstances.

Differentiating factor: Flybits’ technology takes into account everything from a customer’s purchasing habits to their location and even the weather to provide promotional messages when they will be most relevant. “Humans are designed to make decisions using a multitude of inputs and sources of information, context is what leads two people who are encountering the same situation to come away with different personal experiences,” says Hossein Rahnma, CEO.

Latest milestones: Over the past year, Flybits experienced a nearly 70-percent increase in growth and made Deloitte’s Fast 50 list of rapidly scaling Canadian tech companies.

Full article found here: