"If I had $300 million": What BC's tech startup innovators would do with that funding

May 4 2021, 2:42 pm

Written for Daily Hive by Jonathon Narvey, founder & CEO of the Mind Meld PR agency


Vancouver’s tech scene is having a bit of a moment.

“Fun and games on the blockchain” company Dapper Labs just raised $305 million, giving it a valuation of $2.6 billion (and it looks like they’re raising even more).

As reported previously on Daily Hive, Dapper Labs will “scale its team to continue building out the NBA Top Shot vision, expanding the platform to other sports and helping a new generation of creators develop engaging experiences using blockchain technology including NFTs.”

Education technology company Thinkific just raised $160 million, which means the company is now valued at over $1 billion. The same day, legal software firm Clio announced funding of $110 million, putting them at a $1.6 billion valuation. In the parlance of tech aficionados, this is a virtual unicorn rodeo. 

If you think these are jaw-dropping amounts of money, you’re not alone. Was your next thought how you would spend that kind of money if you were in charge?

I asked some of BC’s most innovative startups what they would do with hundreds of millions in new funding to grow their companies and maybe even change the world. 

Some of these BC-based companies have been funded already, while some are early-stage startups. All of them had some big ideas.

Extend the property ladder to all to eliminate wealth inequality

Stephen Jagger, co-founder of Addy, which lets people invest in real estate with as little as $1 (pictured on left, next to co-founders Jeff Booth and Michael Stephenson)

Addy

Addy founder Stephen Jagger pictured on left, next to co-founders Jeff Booth and Michael Stephenson / Addy

“We would scale up our team, technology and real estate opportunities that are focused on a triple bottom line (societal, environmental, and financial) – ultimately becoming our lead on massive real estate investment deals. By doing this we will be able to remove all of the traditional barriers to entry so that this historically ‘locked’ asset class could be opened up to all Canadians. 

“How could that change things? Imagine if everyone could invest in real estate regardless of income, age or other conflicts. We could eradicate wealth inequality. If someone were to invest $2,000 at birth into real estate and it maintained its historical year-over-year appreciation of 8.6% that would be over $300,000 at age 65. Maybe ownership of real estate becomes table stakes in the Canadian economy instead of something you only strive to do in your lifetime (if you’re lucky).” 

Allow companies to create AI-powered marketing content

Sid Bharath, co-founder of Broca, a startup that lets you create high-quality content using AI

Sid Bharath, Co-Founder of Broca

Sid Bharath, Co-Founder of Broca

“We’d primarily use that money to hire more engineers and product people to our team. We have huge goals for what we’re building. We started this company to help brands and marketers tell their story better. 

“Marketing is all about creating content, but you’re forced to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to create that content and promote it. Small businesses and startups can’t afford this, and are left behind. Now, with our AI platform, you can generate high-performing marketing content in minutes and for a fraction of the price.”

Make the hiring process less frustrating for employers and candidates

Andrew McLeod, CEO of Certn, a company enabling smarter background checks

Andrew McLeod, CEO of Certn, a company enabling smarter background checks

Andrew McLeod, CEO of Certn, a company enabling smarter background checks

“Using these funds to hire more amazing talent would be a priority. Funds would also be utilized to tighten our core product value proposition and invest back into what differentiates Certn — our user-friendly and seamless background screening software. 

“Unfortunately, background screening can take up a lot of unnecessary time and create frustration for both candidates and employers. This doesn’t lead to working relationships based on trust and goodwill between both parties – but this common, global issue is what drives Certn’s mission and ongoing innovation.”

Develop exoskeletons to give people with disabilities the freedom to move 

Chloe Angus, Human Centred Design Lead at Human in Motion Robotics, a Vancouver-based company that develops robotic exoskeletons

Human in Motion Robotics

Chloe Angus, Human Centred Design Lead at Human in Motion Robotics

“We would speed up the development and commercialization of our next generation exoskeleton. It’s a wearable device capable of advanced articulation and superior range of motion, allowing for natural walking, self-balancing capabilities, and independent use for those living with motion disabilities such as spinal cord injury, stroke, MS, brain injury, etc… Our vision is to have our exoskeleton available for everyday use, at home, in the workplace, for social occasions, and for walks around the seawall.

“I have a spinal cord injury and hopefully this never happens to you, but ageing will happen to all of us, and it will affect your mobility. Our exoskeleton can provide revolutionary opportunities in both rehabilitation and personal use, dramatically improving the health and wellness of people living with mobility issues.”

Use deep learning to give time and money back to the business world

Jason Smith, CEO & co-founder of Klue, a downtown Vancouver-based company that helps companies use data to stay on top of their competition

Jason Smith, CEO & Co-Founder of Klue

Jason Smith, CEO & co-founder of Klue

“I’d invest even more deeply into machine learning, natural language processing in particular. I would spin up multiple university research experiments to further the NLP field, hire the world’s best talent (including acquiring whole teams), and give them all carte blanche resources at solving a problem that I believe will be at the root of helping every business in the world: extracting and summarizing meaningful, hyper personalized insights from the billions of pools of unstructured data across the web and inside corporate repositories and tools like Slack, Salesforce, Zoom recordings and email.

“The business world is drowning in data and more of it piles up every day. Eighty percent or more of it is unstructured… This would remove billions of wasted hours each week and translate into trillions of economic benefit around the world.”

Create best-in-class chatbots to make financial customer service so much easier

Nat Cartwright, chief operating officer at Finn.ai, which builds conversational chatbots for banks

Nat Cartwright, Chief Operating Officer at Finn.ai

Nat Cartwright, chief operating officer at Finn.ai

“I’d be investing in making sure that every potential customer knew about our product. Today, we have a best-in-class virtual assistant built to be optimized for retail banking that delivers incredible results thanks to the hard work and dedication of our team. Our biggest challenge is matching budgets of our competitors to market our product as widely as we’d like… I’d invest heavily in growth and would leverage all of the tooling and processes that we’ve built to expand to verticals beyond retail banking.

“I see retail banking virtual assistants as a way to deliver financial services – including financial education – in a way that allows more people to access expanded levels of service.”

Make our living spaces better for people and the planet

Arman Mottaghi, CEO of Lambda Science, which has an AI-powered tool to help with energy-efficient building

Arman Mottaghi, CEO of Lambda Science

Arman Mottaghi, CEO of Lambda Science

“We would put the money into facilitating home energy retrofits. There is a high market demand for it, but people are usually not given clear and actionable info about how to improve their living space.

“This could have a big impact on the planet. The carbon emission reductions would be unparalleled. Also, the average person has been spending most of their time indoors, even before the pandemic. So people will benefit from healthier and more comfortable living spaces.”

Use AI to create better emotional experiences

Jason Zerbin, co-founder of Spliqs, offering an AI-powered app that helps anyone to be a music creator

Jason Zerbin, Co-Founder of Spliqs

Jason Zerbin, co-founder of Spliqs

“We’re at the beginning of our journey of augmenting human experience and neurology using audio and AI. With access to such a large amount of funding, we would direct it first to scaling up our team. Particularly we would work to hire a diverse set of individuals with unique perspectives on the product design and marketing processes… Then, we would be looking to develop the core tech into a multiplatform solution that could be used across Web, Mac, and Android spaces. That kind of funding would further evolve the ability of the tech to target specific emotions and brain-states and produce profound shifts.”

Help bring restaurants back to life with a connected dining platform

Laurent May, Head of Ready

Laurent May, Head of Ready

Laurent May, Head of Ready, a Vancouver-based restaurant technology company

“The local restaurant industry has suffered immensely over the past year. Having an investment that size, we could bring our ‘Connected Dining Platform’ to the world, not only to the wider restaurant industry, but to hospitality venues directly including stadiums, hotels, and popular tourism destinations that have been hardest hit at this time. By streamlining customer communication and elevating the guest experience in these industries, Ready could help businesses open quickly and safely.   

“Our existing products are already changing how venues are able to streamline and scale service, access to such an enormous amount of capital would mean we could bring our vision for the future of dining to life more quickly, and to more places.”

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