The year ahead looks promising for Canada's tech start-ups, following a breakout 2012.
In a story published Thursday, CBCNews.ca spoke to four tech company CEOs. The CEOs interviewed – Mike McDerment of FreshBooks, Tobi Lütke of Shopify, Ryan Holmes of HootSuite and Judy Sims of Shopcaster – head companies that had been identified in a CBC story this past summer that asked, "Who will be Canada's next tech darling?"
These CEOs talked about the industry and identified some tech start-ups that they think are companies to watch in 2013. Here are their picks.
Tobi Lütke describes himself as a product-centric person, saying "that's what you need to build companies in the tech sector." One of those companies is Lightspeed, which Lütke describes as "enormously impressive," with a great product. Lightspeed sells software for Apple devices that retailers use to manage their business and to offer services to in-store customers, like using an iPad to explain a product to a customer.
Lightspeed says they have done business with 10,000 retailers in more than 30 countries. In October, accounting giant Ernst & Young named Lightspeed CEO Dax Dasilva Quebec Entrepreneur of the Year. Dasilva founded Lightspeed in Montreal in 2005.
Last year, Lightspeed received a $30-million investment from Accel Partners, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, something Lütke sees as good for the Canadian tech community in general.
- LINK: Lightspeed
As a creator of online accounting software and tools, Wave Accounting is FreshBooks' cross-town competitor in Toronto. Both companies' target market is small business. For Wave that means companies with nine employees or less. Founded in 2010, Wave now claims to have almost 500,000 customers. Their latest product, Wave Payroll, which of course is used to handle payroll online, launched in Canada and the U.S. in 2012.
They're another favorite of Lütke's, who says Wave is "going to go really far."
LINK: Wave Accounting
Last month, Polar Mobile unveiled its new flagship product, MediaEverywhere, which is designed for media companies so they can publish their content across various mobile and other devices. Judy Sims likes how Polar Mobile has been able to attract "pretty impressive young talent straight out of university." The company, which was founded in Toronto in 2007, says it is working with more than 400 media brands.
- LINK: Polar Mobile
Vancouverite Ryan Holmes describes Mobify, founded in 2007, as "a great Vancouver tech company that is doing amazing things." What Mobify does is called responsive web design. It provides companies with software to adapt their websites for the range of web devices, whether computers, smartphones or tablets, or for different operating systems.
- LINK: Mobify
Moncton-based Clarity is in the advice business. Clarity connects business people seeking advice by phone with experts and mentors who then get paid for their time. Unless the advisor is donating their fee to a charity, Clarity gets 15 per cent. Dan Martell founded Clarity in 2012 in his hometown after selling his second business and moving back from Silicon Valley.
McDerment is both a fan and one of Clarity's 7,000 members. He says Martell "is doing some really interesting things," and McDerment likes the fact that Martell is a repeat entrepreneur investing in Canada. But for the most part, McDerment is just "curious to see where it will go."
- LINK: Clarity
Ottawa-based Chide.it is better known known by the name of its main product, FluidSurveys, which is used to create online surveys and then collect and analyze the resulting data. The company's new product, ReviewRoom, does something similar for online job applications or university admissions and grant and fellowship or similar applications.
"They're undercover right now but people are going to learn about them really quickly," says Lütke.
- LINK: Chide.it
ScribbleLive's liveblogging software is used by media companies around the world, including the CBC. They are moving into offering services to other types of companies and marketers directly, Sims explained. Her company, Shopcaster, and ScribbleLive have offices in the same building in Toronto. Sims describes them as cool company with a smart business plan.
In November, ScribbleLive and Shopcaster both won placements at the federal government's Canadian Technology Accelerator in Silicon Valley. Scribble's latest product, unveiled in December, enables people working on the same liveblog to communicate directly and privately.
- LINK: ScribbleLive
Frank & Oak
Online men's clothing company Frank & Oak launched in February 2012. Based in Montreal, they design and manufacture the clothes they sell. They also offer personalized style advice. Each month, they pitch a number of clothing items or accessories that their customers can choose whether or not to order. Sims says Frank & Oak "has blown it out of the water." She's also impressed that they're already expanding into the U.S.
- LINK: Frank & Oak
HootSuite's Holmes expects to see reinvention in the education market, with learning start-ups looking at "making education a more frictionless process." He pointed to Thinkific, the online education company brothers Greg and Matt Smith founded in Vancouver in April 2012. They partner with expert instructors to put together online courses in professional and career development. Students can take the courses on a computer or a mobile device.
- LINK: Thinkific
Eloqua started in Toronto, moved to the U.S. and went public on the Nasdaq in 2012. In December, Oracle announced it was buying Eloqua for $810 million US, as part of its move into cloud computing. Eloqua's product, called marketing automation software, monitors and gathers data on how consumers shop and behave online, so that a company can better target its marketing efforts.
McDerment cited Eloqua – along with other Canadian companies that sold to U.S. companies, like GoInstant, Singular Software and Headwall Software – for "demonstrating the quality of the entrepreneurs and the teams we're starting to see in Canada."
- LINK: Eloqua