Every year at this time, we pull out the crystal ball and try to see what the next twelve months may bring, and I’ve got to say the glass orb is a little cloudy for 2022.
I try not to write predictions in the first article of the year, because it’s a mug’s game. None of us can see the future. And it’s especially hard to get a read on what’s going to happen this year because there are so many variables in the global economy, let alone in innovation.
But here are 10 things (and people) that are on the Entrevestor Radar as we start the new year:
- Medtech – This is one thing that does seem clear: medical technology is on the rise in Atlantic Canada. In the most recent Volta Cohort pitching event, all five winners were medtech companies. Emergence, BioNova and Lab2Market are all working to generate more of these companies. Meanwhile, in St. John’s, Bounce Health Innovation has quietly assembled an astonishing roster of young companies, most involved in medtech. Watch this space.
- Diversity and Inclusion – In 2020, the startup community identified the problem of too little diversity in the ranks of founders and staff, and how we fund startups led by women and minorities. There are now better programs and organizations addressing this problem. In 2022, we hope to assess the performance of startups headed by women and minorities.
- Ocean Funding – This is a problem and an opportunity. Oceantech is a cornerstone sector for Atlantic Canada, but startups in the sector still receive far more non-dilutive funding than direct investment. There is discussion about launching an Atlantic Canadian-based oceans venture capital fund, which could help. Again, watch this space.
- Jevon MacDonald – One of the most accomplished entrepreneurs in the region posted on LinkedIn a few days ago that he has started a new venture called Tier. MacDonald was the CEO of GoInstant (exited in 2012 for US$70 million-plus) and Manifold (raised US$15 million in 2017; exited last year). He was the driving force behind Volta. It will be interesting to learn the details on Tier.
- CarbonCure Technologies – This Dartmouth-based cleantech company is in our ones-to-watch list each year, but each year there is a reason to watch it. The reason in 2022 is that CEO Robert Niven has been teasing us with the possibility of an IPO. With the company’s track record and investors’ fetish for ESG companies, it would be fascinating to see what happens. Which leads us to . . .
- Stock Market Volatility – Several East Coast companies could be candidates for stock market listings, but it will only happen if the markets remain strong. Tens of millions of dollars have been channeled into innovation-driven companies in the region in the past few years. If markets hold up, that flow could continue.
- Labour Markets – There’s so much flux here. More people are moving into Atlantic Canada. The trend of remote work means rising labour costs for Atlantic Canadian startups. But it also means our startups have more flexibility to recruit people living in other places. Meanwhile, post-secondary institutions are graduating more and more tech talent.
- Non-Dilutive Financing – A serial entrepreneur recently told me he raised several million in equity funding when he worked for a startup in Ontario, but never got an IRAP grant. That changed when he moved to Atlantic Canada. Our region’s startup community has been known for its abundance of programs supporting young businesses. But the field is growing crowded, and organizations like the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency face demands to support sectors that have been hit far harder than the startup group.
- Uncertainty in Macro-Economics– What should we expect from the global economy this year? Damned if I know. There are countless landmines, from inflation, to the housing bubble, to stock market volatility to Omicron to supply chain disruption. I’m getting freaked out by all the articles in the Globe and Mail and The Economist about political risks in the U.S. I’m just wondering which landmine(s) we’ll tread on this year.
- The big story we don’t expect – Last year it was the US$100 million funding by Introhive and the effects of META listing on the Nasdaq. The year before that it was Verafin’s US$2.75 billion exit. We’re dealing with high-growth companies and there are now enough of them in Atlantic Canada that there could be any one of twenty ventures that make our eyes bulge.