The past five years have brought some major changes to Canada's technology landscape. BlackBerry, the only iconic Canadian tech company of the last decade, laid off more than half its workforce and saw its market share plunge to nearly zero. Yet, BlackBerry's implosion laid the foundation for the exciting and dynamic tech scene we see today.
Over the past few years, a startling number of tech startups have emerged across the country, as well as several new anchor companies like Shopify and Hootsuite. The growing number of new venture capital funds in Canada, particularly early-stage ones, are also helping to fuel this growth.
So, what will 2015 bring? Here are five predictions:
1. BlackBerry will successfully complete its pivot. There was a time when it was unclear if BlackBerry would continue to exist or be sold off for parts. Yet with a renewed focus on the "power" enterprise users in healthcare, government, and a few other sectors, BlackBerry has begun to stabilize. While the brand will never return to its 2009 status, we can expect to see a full financial turnaround and profitability in 2015.
2. At least one Canadian IPO. Traditionally, hot Canadian startups are acquired by U.S. tech giants. However, we now have several tech stars with lots of capital, great revenue and growth paths, and no apparent intention of selling. In 2015, at least one Canadian startup will file for an IPO on a major US stock exchange (and probably dual list here in Canada too). Shopify, Hootsuite and Vision Critical are the most likely candidates.
3. Venture capital activity will be at a record high. Expect to see major investment activity across Canada, driven by both domestic investors with fresh money from the VCAP program, as well as continued heavy investment from U.S. investors. Strength builds strength: the new crop of standalone tech companies and a successful IPO will show investors that we're capable of building tech giants on Canadian soil.
4. The Toronto-Waterloo area will dominate. While Canada has several exciting tech hubs, I believe the Toronto-Waterloo area will continue its reign as the top startup ecosystem. Expect to see two to three exciting break-through companies emerge from this region.
5. Canadian entrepreneurs will play an important role in emerging technologies. Across the global tech scene, Virtual Reality (VR) and Bitcoin represent two core platforms of the future. VR is quickly expanding from its role in gaming into other key areas like healthcare and education, while a killer app for Bitcoin should also be emerging (probably in international money transfers or remittances). I believe that Canada will play a big role in both of these developments in the year to come.
I will be watching out for these five key trends next year, and expect to see brand new companies, investor money, and established Canadian start-ups break out in a big way. The future of Canadian tech in 2015 looks very bright.
Boris Wertz is the founder of version one ventures, and has invested in over 50 early-stage consumer and enterprise companies, including Edmodo, Flurry, Indiegogo, and Wattpad. Follow him on his blog and on Twitter @bwertz.