Alberta tech firms attract record $455M in venture capital in 2020, report says

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2020 was a record-setting year for venture capital in Alberta, especially for companies in Edmonton and Calgary, says Alberta's Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation, Doug Schweitzer.  (Leslie Kramer/CBC, Manpreet Kooner - image credit)
2020 was a record-setting year for venture capital in Alberta, especially for companies in Edmonton and Calgary, says Alberta's Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation, Doug Schweitzer. (Leslie Kramer/CBC, Manpreet Kooner - image credit)

Alberta posted a record year in 2020 for venture capital investment in tech firms with twice as many deals being signed than the year before for a total of $455 million in financing, according to a report released Wednesday.

The year in review published by the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA) says there were 51 deals inked in 2020, including two blockbuster investments.

Edmonton-based enterprise software company Jobber raised $76 million from Summit Partners, Version One Ventures, OMERS Ventures and Tech Pioneers Fund.

And Calgary-based digital engagement platform Symend raised $73 million led by Inovia Capital and with participation from Mistral Venture Partners and Ignition Partners.

"Albertans are entrepreneurial at heart and are not afraid of risk," said Kim Furlong, CVCA's CEO.

"The venture capital (VC) investment performance showcased in Alberta last year, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, proves that you come out the other side of a challenge stronger and more resilient. I am confident that under the right conditions, Alberta's innovation ecosystem will continue to grow and create jobs and value for Albertans and Canada."

The average deal size was $8.9 million, up 53 per cent over the 2019 deal size average of $5.8 million, the report said.

Alberta Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation Doug Schweitzer noted that the Alberta Enterprise Corporation (AEC) — a provincial body that promotes the development of the VC industry by investing in venture capital funds that finance technology companies — was involved in 53 per cent of the investments made last year.

"2020 was a record-shattering year for venture capital in Alberta, most notably in Edmonton and Calgary," he said.

"Alberta has shown that we are here to compete in the tech space. Recent news from companies like Infosys and mCloud bringing their operations to Calgary means technology innovators are noticing that Alberta is an up-and-comer to watch on the world stage."

Of the top Canadian cities to raise venture capital, Calgary is in the fourth position and Edmonton is sixth.

Schweitzer told CBC News there are signs there's a new critical mass in Alberta's tech and startup sectors.

"You know, 15 or 20 years ago, the entrepreneurs that were kind of in that younger stage of their career would have been focused on the energy market, doing a junior oil and gas company, whereas now a lot of our entrepreneurial talent is looking at other opportunities," he said.

"And a lot of that is being focused here in the startup technology space, from cleantech to pharma, the agricultural technology companies, the fintech companies. And it's really encouraging to see that diversification in our economy, but also just that entrepreneurial spirit is still alive and well in Alberta."

The CVCA report found that Alberta received over 10 per cent of the $4.4 billion of total capital invested in Canada, which brings Alberta up to its nearly proportionate share of national financings, as measured against population.

"The Alberta venture capital industry is realizing phenomenal growth, thanks in large part to the work that has been done by committed stakeholders over the last decade," said Andrea Drager, chair of the Venture Capital Association of Alberta.

"Technology companies are increasingly able to access talent and capital to enable them to grow in the province, and we continue to work on ensuring continued access to capital so that they build and stay here long term."