It was a big year in 2019 for Montreal tech. As we count down the days until 2020, MTLinTECH’s Joseph Czikk and Steve La Barbera spotlight the 10 biggest stories from a big year in Montreal.
Needless to say, Montreal’s tech scene was on fire this year. An ecosystem filled with entrepreneurs, researchers, service providers, investors, talent and acceleration services that seems to be growing exponentially. And as universities churn out more graduates year after year, more capital is being continuously injected to fuel this growth.
Perhaps the most impressive statistic about 2019 was that no less than three Quebec companies raised $200 million each or more Who could have imagined that just five years ago? Enough chatter now – let’s get to the 2019 list of the biggest stories in Montreal tech!
The ten biggest Montreal tech stories of 2019
1. Sonder, Coveo and Element AI all raise at least $200 million each
Three Montreal tech companies went all-out in 2019, raising venture capital to the tune of at least $200 million each. To know that this became a semi-normal thing in Montreal told us that the city is moving forward as a tech ecosystem. Let’s take a deeper look at what happened:
In July, Sonder, a platform that provides thousands of short-term rentals around the world, announced a Series D round of funding totalling US $225 million. The company’s new valuation put it at just over US $1 billion, making it the newest Canadian-founded startup to achieve “unicorn” status.
In September, Montreal’s AI darling Element AI announced it has raised another $200 million, this time as a series B. This, after raising $137 million just two years ago. Since then, Element opened several new offices and invested lavish new headquarters in Montreal’s Little Italy.
And finally, in November, Quebec-based Coveo announced a $227 million (172 million USD) round. The round was led by OMERS Growth Equity and brought the company’s valuation to over $1 billion, making it Canada’s newest technology unicorn. Evergreen Coast Capital, FSTQ, and IQ also participated in this round.
2. Fintech growth: Desjardins, Luge VC, Holt and more all make strides
Lots of big news in Fintech as well. For starters, FormFintech one of Montreal’s key players in matching corporates and financial institutions with the talent and ideas they need to modernize themselves, transformed itself into Fintech Cadence back in the spring. Months later Desjardins also launches a $45M Fintech fund in June, and not to be out done, David Nault’s Luge Capital managed to bring in $10 million in new funding from iA Financial Group and BDC Capital, bringing the size of the venture fund to $85 million.
The Holt Accelerator (still Canada’s only 100% fintech accelerator) held its second cohort and many of its participants are beginning to take off. And of course, no discussion of fintech in Montreal would be complete without upstart Hardbacon, which managed to raise $800,000 through crowdfunding and also recently signed a partnership with Banque Nationale which could lead to a US-style price wars over online trading fees.
3. Montreal tech darling Lightspeed raises $166 million, acquires Chronogolf
And speaking of trading, it seems nothing can stop local tech darling Lightspeed. After raising a massive $166 million series D round in late 2017, this hypergrowth business went public in Toronto this winter.
They then snapped up Chronogolf over the summer.
4. Mental health, women in tech and charity initiatives take centre stage
It’s not all about dollars and cents. This year issues of diversity and mental health began taking a more central role in the community. Issues of accessibility for women entrepreneurs and breaking through the glass ceiling were particularly visible.
And initiatives like AI For Good provided an opportunity for those of us who work in this industry to try to give a little somehting back.
5. Montreal tech events scene continues to up the ante
It was a great year for Montreal tech events as well. Finance Montreal’s Fintech Forum continues to grow year after year. Startupfest is breaking records for attendance and for diversity (the 10th edition will take place in 2020, already!). Music legends were in the house at C2. The team at Montreal NewTech helped make sure Startup Open House was a hit again.
And even when the cool events are taking place elsewhere, Montreal always represents in style!
6. New funds break out, announce themselves to the tech scene
A number of new funds were also announced in Montreal. To name a few:
- Panache Ventures closed its inaugural fund of $58M;
- 3 firms were tapped to invest federal Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative funds
- The CDPQ came along with a quarter billion dollars to invest in AI
- Desjardins announced a new $45 million fintech fund in June
And let’s not forget a few veteran funds in the city who made big stride. iNovia Capital raised a walloping US $600 million fund in February for its new growth fund. Meanwhile, the Ecofuel fund topped up to $40 million in late January.
7. Exits, exits, exits!
There were also some killer exits including Mnubo, which cracked the $100,000,000 mark!
8. Dr. Yoshua Benjio captures the ‘Nobel Prize of computing’ 🙌 🙌
Another event that shone a bright light on Montreal tech and its AI capabilities in particular was the awarding of the 2019 Turing Prize, the highest honour in computer science, to none other than our very own Yohsua Bengio. The esteemed AI legend sat down for a one-on-one interview with MTLinTech a short time after that news was made public.
Don’t forget to catch our one-on-one sit down with Dr. Benjio in May, where we talked everything AI in a long interview.
9. 2019: A year of acquisitions in Montreal tech
Let’s also not forget to shine a light on some of the noteworthy acquisitions that happened in 2019.
In April, Broadsign International, a leading digital out-of-home marketing platform, acquired Ayuda Media Systems.
In May, San Francisco’s customer service platform giant Zendesk acquired Montreal startup Smooch.
Lightspeed, the large Montreal provider of software, solutions and support systems, acquired Montreal-based Chronogolf, a cloud-based golf course management software.
Also in June, RBC Ventures acquired Smart Reno, the online home renovation marketplace.
In July, and just 18 months after raising a $16.5M series B round, Montreal headquartered Mnubo cashed out. Aspen Technologies, the Massachusetts-based maker of optimization software, acquired Mnubo.
And finally, in August, Montreal-based payment processing company Nuvei – formerly known as Pivotal Payments – completed its acquisition of Israeli competitor SafeCharge for $1.19 billion.
10. And many more significant venture capital raises
Sure, we had to point out the massive $200 million raises, but there were so many other Montreal startups that finally earned a big cheque after all their hard work.
For other companies, venture capital firms rewarded their continued growth in terms of more substantial, higher funding rounds. Here were some of the most impressive:
- In January, TrackTik, an integrated security workforce management cloud-based software, announced $45 million in financing
- Company creator Diagram raised $55 million in June, and brought on serial entrepreneur Hamnett Hill as a Partner
- Virtual healthcare platform Dialogue raised $40 million in June
- Bus.com nabbed $19.5 million in late June
- Home healthcare technology platform Alayacare got $33 million in July. The round was worth $51 million in total.
- In July, Landr, an AI-powered platform for musicians, raised $26 million in Series B money
- Construction material delivery service Reno Run raised US $22.5 million in November
- Stradigi AI collected a $53 million Series A payout in November
And so many more smaller funding raises – checkout MTLinTECH and scroll down to check out all of 2019’s funding raises!