A look-ahead to the New Year for the Atlantic Canadian startup community draws attention to the financing of our most successful companies. The companies I’m watching this year either raised money in the last couple of years, or could be raising money this year. Or both.
During the holidays, I thought a bit about what the highlight of 2018 will be for the East Coast startup group. There are pre-scheduled events that will capture attention, but the big news events this year will probably focus around financing. Maybe it’s that way every year — our readers flock to articles about venture capital funding. But this year there are a few wrinkles that will make it different from other years.
For the past two years, there have been more big VC rounds — announcements of funding ranging from $4 million to $18 million. There will be a few more of those announcements this year, though it’s difficult to say which companies will announce these so-called Series A rounds.
What will be interesting will be to see what announcements come from companies that had big raises in 2016. The companies that had big funding rounds last year — like Affinio and Manifold of Halifax — are now putting that money into action. But the companies that raised in 2016 will hit some interesting milestones.
Halifax-based TruLeaf Sustainable Agriculture (which raised $8.5 million in 2016) is due to open its major indoor farm in Guelph, Ont. in June. Resson of Fredericton, which raised US$11 million, is completing the beta tests of its agricultural analytics system and anticipates a full launch this year. St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, which raised US$3 million, is on track to demonstrate this year how it can use genetic research in drug discovery.
There are a couple of companies that haven’t announced big rounds recently but bear watching. One is CarbonCure of Halifax, which is a semifinalist in the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. The four-plus-year international competition will name finalists in February. If CarbonCure makes the cut, it will be in the running to walk away with US$20 million.
Then there is SimplyCast, the Dartmouth company that specializes in multi-channel marketing. For years, CEO Saeed El-Darahali has indicated he wants a public listing for the company. If the public markets remain strong, there will be more attention paid to SimplyCast listing next year.
“We are planning a listing in mid to late 2019 as we finalize some major projects in 2018,” said El-Darahali in an email Wednesday.
These are some of the companies that are on my radar this year, and of course there will always be the companies that outperform expectations and come out with surprising announcements.
Here’s one final thing to keep in mind: The regional accelerator Propel ICT has the stated goal of producing the first IT company in Atlantic Canada valued at or above $1 billion. Saint John investor Gerry Pond, the driving force behind Propel, has stated publicly that he believes a tech company in the region will hit that mark in 2019. Pond made the statement a few years ago, but if he’s right, we’re within 23 months of seeing it happen. We could see some signs in 2018 of big news on the horizon.