Unicorns take centre stage at B.C. Technology Impact Awards

B.C. Tech Association recognizes 11 winners at annual awards

B.C. Tech Association CEO Jill Tipping at this year's Technology Impact Awards | submitted

Laurie Schultz kicked off 2021 delivering a unicorn to the B.C. tech sector.

The tech sector in turn delivered her accolades at Thursday’s B.C Technology Impact Awards (TIA), honouring her as Person of the Year.

“We started [as a] small and humble Canadian story. We made some bold moves and this kind of outcome just really legitimizes the effort, and I’m so proud and grateful,” then CEO Shultz told BIV after Vancouver-based software firm Galvanize was acquired in February by Diligent Corp. to the tune of US$1 billion.

Unicorns — tech firms that hit a valuation of US$1 billion or more – were once a rare breed on the West Coast but have become increasingly prevalent across the local tech landscape since last December.

That month, AbCellera Biologics Inc. (Nasdaq:ABCL) followed through with a blockbuster initial public offering that saw its market value surge past US$15 billion at its height.

The same B.C. biotech firm walked away from the TIAs recognized as Company of the Year – Anchor, while CEO Carl Hansen was nominated alongside Schultz as Person of the Year.

The B.C. Tech Association also recognized another unicorn during the awards, with non-fungible token (NFT) giant Dapper Labs Inc. taking home honours for Excellence in Technology Innovation.

The Vancouver company is best known for its online marketplace — NBA Top Shot – that trades in digital collectibles, such as video highlights, that come with blockchain-backed NFTs that serve as certifications for ownership of those digital assets.

Dapper Labs has raised US$607 million from investors and its valuation sits at a reported US$7.6 billion. 

Much of the B.C. unicorn boom stems from private equity firms swimming in cash amid the pandemic, while credit markets sit wide open and interest rates are at record lows.

While Klue Labs Inc. hasn’t hit unicorn status, the the competitor intelligence startup nabbed a TIA for the second straight year, this time getting the nod for Tech Culture of the Year.

The Gamechanger – Diversity and Inclusion award went to BroadbandTV Corp. (TSX:BBTV). CEO Shahrzad Rafati was busy at work last fall orchestrating an initial public offering for BBTV Holdings Inc. to raise $172 million as part of her bid to retake her majority ownership stake in BroadbandTV.

Another IPO winner from this past year, Thinkific Labs Inc. (TSX:THNC), was honoured during the TIAs with the award for Company of the Year – Scale.

Thinkific, best known for its platform that helps businesses and individuals create and distribute online courses, raised $22 million in venture capital in September 2020 in a funding round led by early investor Rhino Ventures — also based in Vancouver.

“We're just getting started and we've barely scratched the surface of what's capable in online courses, and memberships and entrepreneurial ventures in online education,” CEO Greg Smith told BIV when his company went public in the spring.

“Raising money and being a public company gives us a bigger platform to do that.”

Find the full list of winners below:

Excellence in Technology Innovation award

Dapper Labs

Company of the Year – Startup award

Matidor

Excellence in Technology Adoption award

Advanced Intelligent Systems Inc.

Tech Culture of the Year award

Klue

Spirit of B.C. Tech – Resilience award

Traction Sales and Marketing Inc. (Traction on Demand)

Company of the Year – Growth award

Launchpad Technologies Inc.

Company of the Year – Export award

LMI Technologies Inc.

Company of the Year – Scale award

Thinkific

Gamechanger – Diversity and Inclusion award

BroadbandTV

Person of the Year award

Laurie Schultz

Company of the Year – Anchor award

AbCellera

torton@biv.com

@reporton