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Communitech hosts TSX opening bell

KITCHENER — The Toronto Stock Exchange came to town Tuesday to celebrate the growing success of the region’s startup economy that attracted $2.8 billion last year.

But before the opening bell sounded at Communitech, another Unicorn — a startup valued at more than $1 billion — had emerged from the region’s cybersecurity sector.

What followed was a festive gathering of startup founders, investors, tech leaders and politicians — capped at 100 to stay within public health regulations — the region has not seen in nearly two years.

“This is history,” said Chris Albinson, Communitech chief executive officer, who took over the reins at the innovation hub nine months ago.

The amount of venture capital invested in Communitech startups last year had to be adjusted upwards to $2.8 billion because Communitech keeps learning about new deals.

“Those numbers represent a lot of investment, but what’s really exciting are the things our founders are building, literally from coast to coast to coast, we are celebrating them,” said Albinson.

And two startups — Magnet Forensics and D2L — made millions on their initial public offerings, said Daniel Lipkin, the TSX’s director of global business development.

And he noted the IPO for Definity Financial Corporation, which raised $1.4 billion, was the third-largest in the exchange’s history.
There is much to celebrate, said Lipkin.

“Five years ago, the aggregate market cap for all tech companies on TSX and TSXVenture was $84 billion,” said Lipkin. “Fast forward to today, and it is $415 billion.”

Five years ago, all of the tech companies on the TSX raised a combined total of $1.4 billion.

“Last year, $14 billion was raised, an all-time record,” said Lipkin.

The investors are attracted by annual returns of 25 per cent during the past decade by the companies listed on the S&P TSX Tech Index, said Lipkin.

“That’s better than the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq over that same period,” said Lipkin. “We should talk about Canadian tech companies becoming global leaders and being able to support the next wave of global leaders.”

That was on display Tuesday at the Communitech Hub.

Among the guests were Tim Jackson and Dave Caputo, well-known tech leaders, mentors and investors. They both came out of PixStream, one of the region’s earliest startups. After it was bought by Cisco in August 2000 for $369 million US, many who worked there founded or led dozens of other startups since.

Many of the successful tech startup leaders taking part in the starting bell ceremony Tuesday were backed financially or mentored by Jackson or Caputo.

John Baker, the founder and chief executive officer of D2L, pushed the opening buzzer — a big, soft, red bulb on a podium. With him was Anna Forgione, D2L’s lawyer.

“We are hiring like crazy,” said Baker.

Standing behind them, ringing small, red bells, were the founders and heads of leading startups — Dozr, ApplyBoard, Auvik Networks, KOHO, Arctic Wolf, Alert Labs, Vidyard and Uvaro.

Baker said he would encourage the founders to take their companies public when they feel the time is right. The worldwide push to digitize all sectors of the economy following the pandemic, and the fact that only four per cent of the world’s education is online, convinced Baker and his team the time was right to go public last November, raising more than $150 million.

It was among only 20 companies to IPO on the exchange last year, raising more than $100 million.

“As we try to compete globally, it is nice to have the capital; it is nice being able to raise our profile and build awareness on the world stage,” said Baker during an interview with a BetaKit editor.

Martin Basiri, the chief executive officer and co-founder at ApplyBoard, used his conversation with BetaKit to signal ApplyBoard’s intentions to go public.

“I don’t know exactly the timing, but we are getting ready,” said Basiri.

Since first hitting Unicorn status in May 2020, the company’s valuation has increased to more than $3.2 billion US or $4 billion Cdn, with 1,500 employees.

“For what we want to do, I think going public totally makes sense,” said Basiri.

It remains a small club among this region’s tech companies — there are only 10 TSXVenture companies headquartered in this region.

Albinson was thrilled to see founders celebrate their successes after nearly two years of pandemic isolation.

“The mountain really did come to Mohamed today,” said Albinson in an interview later. “The community is just on

Source – The Record