Alberta’s fast-growing tech sector set a new record for venture capital investment in the first quarter of this year, according to a new report from briefed.in.
During Q1 2022, Alberta-based tech companies raised $205.6 million through 20 deals, a 212-per-cent increase in total funding compared with the fourth quarter of 2021, and a 26-per-cent increase year-over-year.
“Calgary’s tech startup scene has experienced significant growth in recent years,” Terry Rock, president and CEO at innovation entity Platform Calgary, said in an email to Research Money.
“We have more than 450 tech-enabled startups in the city, and that number continues to grow rapidly,” he said.
In March, Prairies Economic Development Canada announced it would provide more than $22.3 million, including interest-free, repayable funding to 13 of Calgary’s fastest-growing tech firms, to support them scaling up and expanding their markets.
Of the funding, $2 million will go to help complete the new Platform Innovation Centre in downtown Calgary. The innovation centre will host approximately 60 service providers and business accelerators that give Calgary entrepreneurs and SMEs a one-stop-shop of programs, mentoring, networking and access to capital.
Calgary saw a record $322.2 million in venture capital investments in 2021, a seven-per-cent increase from the $300 million raised in 2020.
“We’ve seen major increases in venture capital investments,” Rock said. “In fact, we have set a new record for quarterly venture funding in the first quarter of this year.”
While VC investment in five major tech sectors tracked by briefed.in was generally strong overall in Q1 2022, all those tech sectors face growing challenges in attracting and retaining talent.
For example, there are more than 2,300 tech-related jobs currently vacant in Calgary, according to Calgary Economic Development.
“With a rapidly growing tech sector, attracting tech talent has to be a major focus,” Rock said.
Platform Calgary is focused on bridging the gap between startups and talent by helping the tech sector become better connected and even more prominent, he said.
Platform Calgary also works closely with partners across Alberta to support talent development and hiring through programs, community meet-ups and events, Rock said. “We’re showing people that Calgary has opportunities in tech at all career levels that they can pursue.”
Calgary Economic Development is leading the EDGE UP (Energy to Digital Growth Education and Upskilling Project), to help Calgary’s workforce – including displaced oil and gas workers – take advantage of high-demand, high-growth digital technology employment opportunities across all sectors.
In January this year, the Alberta government announced the “Accelerated Tech Pathway” to fill labour deficits in the tech industry through international recruitment.
The program will target sector-specific skills sets through the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program in an effort to help staff the rapidly expanding tech sector.
There are now 3,000 technology companies in the province, according to Alberta Enterprise Corp., a 233-per-cent increase since 2012.
“Talent crunch” also affecting B.C.’s tech companies
British Columbia’s tech sector raised a total of $528 million through 28 deals in Q1 2022, a 20-per-cent decline in total investment from Q4 2021, and a 48-per-cent decrease year-over-year, according to briefed.in.
However, venture capital investment in B.C.’s tech sector in Q1 2022 was still higher than almost every quarter in 2019 and 2020.
“2021 was a banner year for capital raises, and while 2022 has started slower, we’re still seeing many raises and high-quality investable companies,” said Jill Tipping, president and CEO of BC Tech.
As for the tech talent pipeline, “the talent crunch in B.C. is having a real impact on our companies’ ability to grow in B.C. rather than expand elsewhere,” she said in an e-mail.
BC Tech offers reskilling programs and subsidized internships to attract more talent into province’s sector, which is producing great results and high satisfaction rates from candidates and employers, Tipping said.
“But we could increase our efforts by 10 times and still not meet market demand,” she said.
BC Tech is working hard in partnership with the B.C. government to fund more talent supply to fuel the growth of B.C.’s tech sector, Tipping added.
Canada’s tech ecosystems saw record VC investment in 2021
Despite the challenge of attracting and retaining talent, Canadian tech start-ups across the country raised a record total of $14 billion in venture capital investment through 698 deals in 2021, according to briefed.in’s annual tech report.
That represents a 218-per-cent increase in investment and 31-per-cent increase in deal volume compared with 2020.
Five of the major tech ecosystems (Calgary, Toronto, British Columbia, Montreal, and the Waterloo Region) tracked by briefed.in broke their own yearly records for venture investment last year.
That strong performance in venture capital investment continued during the first quarter of this year.
Toronto’s tech sector set a new venture funding record in Q1 2022, raising a collective $1.87 billion through 58 deals, a 54-per-cent increase in total funding compared with Q4 2021, and a 59-per-cent increase year-over-year, according to briefed.in.
Quebec’s tech sector also set a new record for venture funding in Q1 2022, with startups raising a total of $1.46 billion through 29 deals, an increase of 633 per cent compared with Q4 2021 and 440 per cent year over year.
The Waterloo Region's tech sector raised $157.2 million through 11 deals in Q1 2022. That’s a 73-per-cent decrease in total investment quarter-over-quarter, but a 968-per-cent increase compared with the record low investment of $14.7 million raised in Q1 2021.