Toronto is a global leader when it comes to the finance sector, but it’s not exactly regarded as a hotbed for tech startups. This is fast-changing, however, with a growing number of tech successes and investments pouring into the city.
Some are predicting that the iconic Canadian city is on the cusp of becoming a world leader in technological innovation. Here are 13 tech startups from Toronto to keep an eye on in 2016 and beyond.
The Hyperloop, a high-speed transportation system conceived by Elon Musk, is on its way to becoming a reality in the Toronto-Montreal area. TransPod has designed a small-scale prototype of this new form of transportation: a small, train/car-like pod that travels along a set track on a pressurized cushion of air. The company is planning to have a full-scale model operational by the end of 2016 and commercial operations in place within the next five years.
Top Hat has developed a digital teaching platform that allows educators to create interactive lectures for their classes. Instructors display presentations on their main device (e.g., laptop, tablet, smartphone)—students in turn connect their own devices to the presentation via the app, answer questions, and get instant feedback.
Coding isn’t a skill that most people have; subsequently, a high demand exists for software that streamlines web development for casual developers. Flybits is one such application specializing in building mobile user experiences. Not only does it simplify the processes of content creation and interactive development for mobile devices—it also uses pre-established rules called contexts that personalize how users experience the final product. For example, a homepage welcome video displayed on a machine with low battery or no Wi-Fi connection is automatically replaced with text.
Online shopping is quickly replacing traditional retail—in response to this shift, most brands have enlisted entire e-commerce teams to manage operations. Smaller companies do not have this luxury—but they do have Shopify: a user-friendly platform for business owners to create their own online stores. The offering features WYSIWYG development, data analytics, and a myriad of online marketing tools.
Like Shopify, Freshbooks eliminates the need to hire a team—except in this case, it’s for accounting operations. The cloud-based platforms keeps track of expenses and receipts, sends invoices, and even automatically messages clients that owe outstanding payments. Additional features such as profit/expense tracking over time and payment transfer handling/creation make it an attractive option for new businesses looking to save time and money.
Synbiota’s overarching philosophy is that biology is technology. They have developed what is likely the world’s first virtual petri dish, enabling users to design/build synthetic DNA constructs on their personal computers from home. The applications are unprecedented: biological circuits that behave like switches and sensors, cells that produce specific smells at defined temperatures, and rare materials created from common items, among others. The solution consists of software to design creations and a wetware kit to bring them to life.
As its name implies, Varage Sale is a platform for virtual garage sales. While websites like eBay and Craigslist are popular for selling second-hand possessions, Varage Sale takes this to the next level by facilitating the creation/organization of online social groups and in-person meetups—adding the personal touch of meeting new people in person and discovering interesting buys.
Bridgit is a platform that helps contractors manage subcontractors working on their sites, streamlining the process of applying post-construction modifications and corrections. Using the app, contractors simply take a picture on-site and mark where it is/what needs to be done—the platform automatically sends it to all subcontractors. Once the job is completed, subcontractors can snap a photo to confirm completion and request approval from the contractor.
The Nymi Band is a stylish wristband that doubles as an authentication device—a biometric template (e.g., fingerprint sample, heart rhythm profile) is recorded/stored as a key for activating its features. Once activated, the band communicates via Bluetooth to unlock devices, gain physical access past security doors, authenticate financial transactions, and more.
Already used in smartphones and ultra-slim televisions, OLEDs—short for organic light emitting diodes—allow for strings of lights to be mounted on flexible, paper-like sheets for unparalleled ease of installation. OTI Luminotics is applying OLEDs for use in general interior lighting, furniture enhancement, and even wearable clothing.
The Unified Computer Intelligence Corporation(UCIC) enables voice interactions in business software, most notably with Amazon Alexa Voice Service for issuing simple voice commands to query/interact with products and services. It also works with third parties to develop their own speech recognition software for various applications.
ThinkData Works is an information aggregating service that focuses on open data: openly sharable/distributable information released to the general public by government agencies and other entities. Its Namara.io open data search engine boasts over 60,000 sets of data from over 700 sources.
Chematria first gained widespread attention back in 2014 with its experimental artificial intelligence (AI) programs for discovering Ebola virus treatments. Its AI program—developed by California developer Atomwise—is now being used to rapidly discover new medicines and treatments for devastating ailments like malaria and leukemia. The firm is also involved in developing more environmentally-friendly pesticides for agriculture.
Toronto may not be as established as other regions when it comes to tech innovation, but recent developments may soon see Canada’s largest city going head-to-head with startup hubs like Vancouver. Only time will tell how many will succeed on a global scale; notwithstanding, the future seems bright for many of these ventures.