The Narwhal Club: Home to Canada’s $1 Billion Dollar Tech Startups
October 2015 Update:
The Narwhal Club is going strong with plenty of recent news concerning prominent Canadian startups. Working with Brent Holliday from Garibaldi Capital Advisors, we got the latest scoop on the sector and have updated the narwhal list accordingly.
The most recent notable event occurred in the summer of 2015, when Markus Frind sold his 100% owned Plentyoffish.com to Match Group for US$575 million. As a result, we have removed POF from the Narwhal list, and instead have inducted Markus to a new category called the Nar-Wall of Fame. Plentyoffish.com allowed Markus to amass a personal fortune from profits and sale of his business that makes his personal valuation Narwhal-esque.
Next, with its recent raise of $50 million from China’s Tencent, a new narwhal was born. Kik Interactive is now valued at over the coveted $1 billion mark, and claims to have over 240 million users in 230 countries worldwide. Kik is a chatting application that competes directly with the likes of Snapchat among younger demographics.
Lastly, three new “emerging narwhals” have been added to the list. Enerkem uses proprietary technology to convert non-recyclable waste into clean energy products, and most recently raised C$152.6 million from financings. Intelex, a software company providing web-based management systems, is also now on the emerging list after securing C$160 in strategic growth funding. The third new entry is Lightspeed POS, a company that just raised US$61 million in September for its point-of-sales systems.
The Narwhal Club
Original writeup published December 2014
In 2013, Aileen Lee of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers came up with the concept of the “Unicorn Club”, for tech startups reaching valuations of $1 billion or more. For venture capitalists, this number is much like unicorns themselves – very magical. It resembles big potential exits that can make up for all the startup investments that don’t pan out.
Brent Holliday at Garibaldi Capital Advisors, a Vancouver-based capital advisory with a focus on technology, thought there needed to be a Canadian equivalent. He created the concept of the “Narwhal Club”, based on the uni-horned Canadian animal that actually exists and roams the frigid seas of the North. This club represents companies with $1B CAD valuations that started in 1999 or later.
While there are more than 40 unicorns in existence in the US, there are only four members of the Narwhal Club in Canada: Avigilon, Hootsuite, Slack, and Shopify. However, there are many companies getting close to breaking the ice – these are companies we consider to be emerging narwhals, with valuations in the hundreds of millions with great growth rates.
Some of these include Desire2Learn, Vision Critical, Redknee, Real Matters, iQmetrix, PointClickCare, BuildDirect, DWave, and Wattpad.
We will be updating this list quarterly based on the latest public financing round available. If you know of a company that could fit either category, contact us here. Alternatively, connect with us below.
Visualized: The Esports Journey to Mainstream
This infographic plots the journey of esports, from underground niche to a billion-dollar mainstream phenomenon—and it shows no signs of slowing down.
Visualized: The Esports Journey to Mainstream
Although esports might seem like a relatively new phenomenon, its origins can be traced all the way back to the 1970s.
It was only in the past decade however, that a wave of technological innovation transformed the entire industry from an underground niche into a billion-dollar mainstream phenomenon.
Today, the nascent esports industry competes with some of the biggest sports leagues in the U.S., while global tech giants hastily invest billions of dollars to make their mark in what many consider to be the future of sports and entertainment.
How did it evolve into the industry we know today—and more importantly, will it maintain its furious pace of growth?
The History of Esports
Electronic sports (or esports), are organized, multiplayer video game competitions commonly played by professional gamers. Since its inception, the industry has continued to exceed expectations and reach new milestones every decade.
Note: The timeline of events are an abridged version of major achievements in the industry.
1970s: The Birth of Esports
The earliest known video game competition—the Intergalactic Spacewar Olympics—took place in 1972 at Stanford University. The winner of the event received an annual subscription to Rolling Stone magazine.
While it was a modest first prize for the industry, it would set a foundation for future prize pools in the millions of dollars.
1980s: More Gaming Options
The 1980s ushered in better consoles for esports. The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) took graphics, controls, gameplay, and video game accessibility to the next level.
Five years later, the Sega Genesis console was released in the U.S. and Japan to compete with Nintendo—which held a 95% market monopoly at the time.
1990s: The First Tournaments
Nintendo increased its commitment to esports by hosting the Nintendo World Championships. After touring 30 cities in the U.S., the finals challenged players to games like Super Mario Bros. and Tetris, with a 40-inch TV awarded to the winner.
Developers and gaming entrepreneurs created a flurry of leagues, including QuakeCon in 1996, followed by both the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) and the Professional Gamers League (PGL) in 1997.
In just a few years, these competitions helped esports gain significant traction.
2000s: The Explosion of Esports
Esports fully burst into the mainstream with Amazon’s acquisition of Twitch for $970 million in 2014. The live video game streaming site gave esports a platform to reach previously unthinkable heights, with popular games like League of Legends (LoL) and Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota) receiving millions of views.
In 2019, Google followed suit with its Stadia streaming service. The cloud-based video game platform aims to eliminate the need for hardware, allowing Google to aggressively compete in the esports space.
A Snapshot of Esports Today
The increasing involvement of developers and global tech giants has not only increased the audience size of esports—it has also led to bigger prize pools, and larger scale competitions across the world.
- Demographics: 50% of esports viewership now comes from Asia.
- Engagement: 6 billion hours were dedicated to watching esports in 2018, and will continue to grow to 9 billion by 2021.
- Buy-in: The price of one of the 12 Overwatch League teams for sale in 2017 was $20 million.
- Incentives: The Fortnite competition prize pool for the 2018 season was $100 million—equal to the entire esports prize pool in 2017.
It’s clear that esports continues to attract rapidly growing audiences at an unprecedented rate. However, there are still significant barriers inhibiting the industry from reaching its full potential.
The Future of esports
In order to maintain its furious pace of growth, the esports industry must first address five key challenges:
- Diversity of game genres: The industry will need to produce more game genres in order to appeal to a wider audience outside of its current player base.
- Geographic expansion of leagues: esports will need to expand to national, regional, and global levels if it wants to tap into bigger advertising budgets. However, while esports gains attention from global media, local events are more difficult to organize.
- Regulation of competitions: With multimillion-dollar prize pools at stake, new rules and regulations are needed to combat cheating and match fixing.
- Ownership of media rights: Content rights have not been a focus for publishers, as fan-generated content has served as free advertising for their games.
- Media alignment: Traditional media brands are still reluctant to associate themselves with esports, as prejudices against competitive gaming still exist. For example, gaming culture is viewed as a harmful distraction, rather than a legitimate sport.
In less than 50 years, esports has evolved into a dominant form of entertainment today, eclipsing film and music industries by a wide margin. With an increasingly mainstream audience, the industry’s popularity and profitability shows no signs of slowing down—despite the challenges it faces.
Visualizing the Rise of Investment Tech
Visualizing the Rise of Investment Tech
For the high resolution version of this infographic, click here.
Investors and wealth managers are always looking to capitalize on their investments—and the latest innovations are arming them with more efficient tools to get there.
Fintech solutions are increasingly being adopted among the digitally active population, as 64% of surveyed wealth managers consider digitization essential in 2019.
Today’s graphic from Raconteur highlights the benefits of investment technology, and touches on shifting sentiments in human vs. digital interactions. Where do investors and wealth managers see the next epoch of investment fintech heading?
Fantastic Features: Top Benefits
According to a TD Ameritrade survey of 1,000 investors, a whopping 90% consider getting tailored investing advice to be the most important feature of any tech tool. In second place, 52% place value in easy access to their data.
Here are the other benefits at top of mind for investors when it comes to investment tech:
- 45% seek the best possible returns
- 44% look for customized, quick, and simple analysis
- 39% are interested in customized portfolios
- 39% want the benefit of personalized budgets
- 38% desire regular suggestions for optimizing financial health
But how well are these applications being adopted in everyday investment scenarios?
The Fintech Boom by the Numbers
Investment apps such as RobinHood have drastically risen in popularity, but still lag behind more mainstream segments in the fintech space:
Fintech Categories Ranked by Adoption Rate, 2015 to 2019
|Category||2015 Adoption Rate||2017 Adoption Rate||2019 Adoption Rate|
|Money transfer and payments||18%||50%||75%|
|Savings and investments||17%||20%||34%|
|Budgeting and financial planning||8%||10%||29%|
Borrowing apps have the lowest global usage rates—only 27% of the digitally active global population—whereas nearly 75% have adopted money transfer and payment apps.
Human vs Machine: The Customer Experience
Do humans or machines have the edge in managing your investments?
The aforementioned survey by TD Ameritrade also asked investors which of the following are performed better by each group, with mixed results:
|👨 Humans perceived as better||🤖 Robots perceived as better|
|• Ability to chat about questions or investment concerns||• Info in one place that can be accessed at any time to inform best solutions
|• Investment experience||• Best returns|
|• Affordable investment solutions or advice||• Ability to optimize returns and minimize taxes
|• Regular suggestions on how to optimize financial life||• Quick, simple analysis tailored to unique financial situation
|• Personalized budget development||• Custom portfolio with regular updates|
When it comes to managing tasks such as calculations, updates, and portfolio optimization, the majority of investors consider a computer to be better suited to the tasks at hand. However, when they are discussing investment concerns, personalization, or financial advice, the majority of customers prefer a human opinion.
Interestingly, 81% of U.S. investors believe that investment technology could never replace the “human touch”, compared to 70% of European investors or 64% in Asia.
Wealth Managers are Going Digital
Over time, wealth managers have grown to embrace the digitization of their industry.
The proportion of surveyed high-level executives who see digitization as essential to the industry jumped from just 25% in 2016 to 64% in 2019.
In another recent survey about views on most impactful types of fintech apps, more than 68% of wealth managers agreed that robo-advisors are among the most important developments, with AI-based investing apps following closely behind at 45%.
Towards a More Personalized Future
At the end of the day, investors want better, more personalized advice at their disposal—and for that advice to generate more profitable returns. Along with their wealth managers, investors are increasingly interested in solutions that can simplify portfolio management.
Digitization and automation of manual processes have been a welcome change for many industry professionals. While investment technology is still in early stages, wealth managers can personalize investor experiences through the adoption of tech─and increase their chances of future success by maintaining a seamless customer experience.
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