Calgary

Number of Alberta tech companies has more than doubled since 2018

The Alberta Enterprise Corporation released its Alberta Technology Deal Flow Study for 2021 on Thursday, showing the province is now home to more than 3,000 companies in that sector.

The province has more female tech founders than the global average

Alberta's minister of jobs, economy and innovation, Doug Schweitzer, says Alberta's tech sector is maturing. (Todd Korol/The Canadian Press)

The number of tech companies that call Alberta home has more than doubled in the past three years, according to a new study from a provincial Crown corporation. 

The Alberta Enterprise Corporation released its Alberta Technology Deal Flow Study for 2021 on Thursday, showing the province now has more than 3,000 companies in that sector, up from 1,238 in 2018.   

It also found Alberta has a higher percentage of female tech company founders than the global average — 27 per cent, compared with 20 per cent globally. 

"It's no longer an emerging tech sector in Alberta, this is a maturing tech sector," said Doug Schweitzer, minister of jobs, economy and innovation. 

"We're just seeing that next generation of entrepreneurs that historically likely would have started up a junior oil and gas company are now starting up tech and venture companies right here at home."

Despite the economic challenges of the pandemic, 14 per cent of the new tech companies launched in 2020. The study says about 40 per cent of businesses are reporting annual revenues of over $1 million, well exceeding the results from the last study in 2018. 

However, it also noted that many are still struggling to get access to capital to scale up.

Almost 60 per cent of the companies said their biggest challenge was getting funds. Market access and finding talent to hire were also big issues.  

"We've transitioned and are transitioning our economy and our ecosystem," said Irfhan Rawji, the CEO of MobSquad. 

"Attracting and retaining technology talent is critical to our technology ecosystem."

The survey reported many companies are just in their infancy, either pre-revenue or in preliminary stages of fundraising. 

The study found business accelerators were not well used, with only 36 per cent saying they had participated in a program, an increase of eight percentage points from 2018. 

Calgary has the most companies, at 58 per cent, and Edmonton was home to 30 per cent. 

The average tech company founder was 43, and three-quarters of the companies have fewer than 25 employees. 

Tech companies have spent months asking for government programs to bring and retain talent in the province, as well as reduce the hurdles to accessing capital. 

Alberta posted a record year in 2020 for venture capital investment in tech firms with twice as many deals being signed than the year before for a total of $455 million in financing, according to a report released earlier this year.

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