Now that we’re through the year-end festivities and returning to work, let’s look at what we can expect from Atlantic Canadian startups in the 21st year of the 21st century.

Here are three things we’re watching in the coming year.


Funding in 2019 was both fantastic and, well, weird, and it would be nice if financing was a bit more conventional this year. It was fantastic because Atlantic Canadian innovators raised more than $600 million in capital, the first time the region has ever exceeded $200 million. The weird part is that few of the deals were textbook venture capital deals. Even the earth-shaking $515 million round closed by St. John’s based Verafin was a hybrid of debt and equity.

Other than Halifax-based ABK Biomedical’s $40 million VC round, there were a range of sources for capital. Charlottetown-based life sciences company MicroSintesis raised $16.4 million in private equity from John Risley’s Northern Private Capital. Dartmouth’s IMV raised $29.5 million by selling shares in stock markets in March. Other companies like Metamaterial Technologies and Swarmio received commitments worth millions of dollars in preparation for their stock market listings.

Our 2019 Review Highlighted Just One Story: Verafin

The important thing is that money is flowing into Atlantic Canadian companies. The goal of the whole startup thing is to produce big companies, and those companies need capital to grow in good times or survive if we hit a recession. For the sake of optics, it would be great if Atlantic Canadian companies announced a few more pure VC deals this year.

One final note on funding: San Francisco-based Startup Genome ranked Atlantic Canada No. 4 in the world last year in the “Activator” category of its global ecosystem rankings. The ranking is based in part on funds raised by the region’s startups. Startup Genome only counts companies that are 10 years old or younger, so the 2019 funding by Verafin (founded in 2003) won’t count. I don’t know how Startup Genome calculates its rankings, but we may slip in the rankings this year.

An Exit that Means Something

Exits drive growth in the startup community, recapitalizing the local investment community and increasing hiring. But Atlantic Canada has had only one “meaningful” exit in the past five years – STI Technologies of Halifax, which was reportedly sold for more than $200 million.

In 2019, there was the follow-on sale of Charlottetown-based BioVectra for US$250 million (about C$325 million), but the capital flowed from one offshore owner to another. Other than that, the exits last year involved Saint John-based data centre owner Cirrus9, Halifax-based Alpha Dog Games and The Centre for Aquaculture Technologies, a P.E.I.-based research group. None revealed their sale price.

What’s needed is an exit that draws attention to the region and rewards a host of investors, both institutional and individual. It’s been a while since we’ve seen one.


CarbonCure has the potential to be the Verafin of Halifax – one local company a city can hold up as a global leader. CarbonCure, which reduces carbon in the atmosphere by using CO2 to cure concrete, has expanded into Asia, and its tech is being used in more than 100 cement plants. Bill Gates recently highlighted the company in a blog. The fact that it’s a social venture attacking the greatest problem facing the world only amplifies its standing.

This is a big year for CarbonCure. It is one of 10 finalists in the US$20 million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE Challenge, which recognizes companies that find commercial uses for carbon. CarbonCure has already received US$500,000 as a finalist and could win a further US$7.5 million when the two winners are announced this year. A win would provide meaningful development capital and a sign that this is company to be reckoned with.