Canadian fintechs stronger than ever, investments near record

Venture capital investment in Canadian financial technology (fintech) companies hit its highest level in almost two decades last year, even as VC funding in the United States dried up.

According to Reuters’ Solarina Ho, Canadian fintech is “revitalizing the startup scene and has attracted a new crop of Canadian venture capital funds looking to invest specifically in young fintech companies.”

The new data largely comes from PitchBook, a database providing stats and trends within M&A, Private Equity & Venture Capital.

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According to the database, VC funding in Canadian fintech was $137.7 million in 2016, a boost of more than 35 percent on the year. It was $21.8 million five years ago. In 2000 it was $7.3 million.

At first glance the numbers seem staggering. While impressive, it also points out just how weak of a sector fintech was prior to a couple years ago. This is largely due to heavy regulation (definitely in Canada), investor apathy and trust issues that small tech companies had to hurdle with the public.

Moreover, Ho pointed out that investment databases vary as some investors didn’t disclose full information. Methodologies differ on how information is collected, how many companies are tracked, what is considered fintech and what constitutes a venture deal.

Still, Thomson Reuters said there’s been a rise of nearly 74 percent from 2015 to 2016, to $264.8 million (USD $197.41 million), the highest level since the dot com days of 2000. That year VC funding in Canadian financial technology firms reached $317.9 million.

Elsewhere in the world, fintech investment fell hard and fast in 2016. They fell by 30 per cent in the US and nearly 25 per cent in the UK. In Singapore things got pretty messy: fintech investment sank 65 percent. (Still, investments reached $4.27 billion overall in the US in 2016.)

“From a global stage, Canada is a relatively small market,” Adam Nanjee, who heads the fintech group in Toronto’s MaRS research hub, told Reuters. “But it’s one of the best markets to build a company around innovation because we have a great test market, great infrastructure for financial services.”

Ho pointed out that Goldman Sachs invested in Toronto-based Financeit in 2015 and nanoPay in 2016. Meanwhile, Japan’s NTT Data Corp, one of the world’s largest technology services companies, and the MaRS announced a partnership in November to help Canadian startups expand into Japan and give NTT access to technology being developed by Canadian startups.

Maturing big-name Canadian startups like Shopify, Wattpad, and Hootsuite helped pave the way, Wealthsimple’s Mike Katchen told Reuters, for the next “cohort of companies that are coming of age on the international stage.”

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