Bigger and better: 2016 year in review

This year was unquestionably the biggest in the history of the (admittedly young) Hamilton tech sector.

First off, big exits, in fact what were likely the two biggest exists ever in Hamilton. First in January Mabel’s Labels was acquired for $12 million, followed by VIZIYA being acquired at $21 million in October!

Mabel’s Labels is a storied Hamilton success story… what started out as 4 moms selling identification labels out of a basement grew into a company with a few dozen employees over a 13 year period. And VIZIYA grew like topsy over the last 5 years… they were featured on the Deloitte list of the 50 fastest growing tech companies by revenue for 3 years in a row and became the city’s largest tech company by number of employees.



It wasn’t just these two companies either, health tech startup CareKit was also acquired in a deal worth $2 million in February! These exits are important because they show that “it can be done in Hamilton”, and they pave the way for others to follow by demonstrating how it can be done. Rumour has it that we’ll be seeing a couple more acquisitions in Hamilton next year too! Hopefully these acquisitions add to the pool of experienced entrepreneurs that are able to fund and mentor the next generation.

And on that note… big funding! Data centre technology startup Cinnos was able to raise $2.3 million this year. That’s an incredible achievement that again paves the way for others to follow.



Next up, Big Blue, aka IBM, announced they were moving into town in a partnership with Hamilton Health Sciences to work on health technology! To me this is probably the single biggest piece of news ever for the Hamilton tech sector. IBM’s done great things for communities by opening up satellite offices in recent years (e.g. 500 jobs in Halifax).

IBM does work with McMaster researchers already, and the company is one of the more sought after landing spots by McMaster computer science and software engineering grads in particular. We’ll have to see what this grows in to, but I’m hopeful this could be excellent in terms of retention of Mac students after graduation, creating higher-end technology jobs in the city (i.e. research and development level work), and giving Hamilton’s tech sector more heft to people outside our community (everyone has heard of IBM).


There’s so many more great stories too! Just a few…

Design agencies in town continued to kick ass and take names, with clientele increasingly coming from outside the city.

Hamilton Code Clubs had over 500 students in 20 schools learn computer programming in weekly learn to code clubs, and with future fund dollars the program will continue to scale next year.

A regular gamut of meetup groups and conferences continued to catalyze the community – everything from a bigger Embrace UX, to regular features like AppsForHealth, to new events like HamOnt.js, Hacking Health Hackathon, VR Meetup, and Internet of Things meetup! Each one of these community building initiatives reaches out to a different and new segment of people that fills a different “gap in the marketplace”.

The Forge incubator continued to fill-up, and companies in the space continue to scale and win early funding. The Forge on McMaster campus and SURGE at Mohawk College are stirring the entrepreneurial pot on campus to keep this growth going strong.



There was some sad news with ThinkHaus closing shop, but they helped foster a maker culture in the city that’s still going in new forms like the Mini Make Faire and new artist/maker spaces.


I’ll cut it off here, but suffice to say this past 12 months has been amazing for our community. There’s a very, very long road ahead to get where Hamilton could be, something more akin to Waterloo’s scale in terms of revenue/jobs/funding/exits, but fit to our own strengths. After a year of big exits, big funding, Big Blue moving into town, and bigger than ever community building and startup support activities… we’ve got more reason than ever before to believe that we’ll get there.


Hifyre helps turn Mettrum into a blazing success

Editor’s note:

This is a guest blog article from local firm Hifyre (@hifyre).

Similar articles like this are welcome from any and all other agencies in town if you’ve got something cool you’d like to share!



This past week we have had one of the greatest rewards you can get in our industry. Something all of us at Hifyre are incredibly proud to be a part of.

It all started around 4 years ago. A couple of former colleagues reached out to us. They were looking to establish themselves in an emerging medical marijuana market in Canada.

Our first reaction was one of surprise. Hifyre knew nothing about this industry, and had many questions. But we quickly learned as much as we could about this new opportunity, and instinctively knew we had to be a part of it. It aligned with everything that Hifyre stands for; challenge, new products, innovation, and ultimately… trailblazing. And so started the journey with our new client Mettrum.

Hifyre’s first job for Mettrum was to create a brand, website and supporting marketing materials in preparation for a community meeting in the small Ontario town of MacTier. The town had offered Mettrum the possibility of turning their fledgling local arena into Mettrum’s first growing facility.

Enter Canadian hockey legend Bobby Orr. Like trailblazing in any new industry, there are going to be challenges. To read about the connection between Bobby Orr and Mettrum, click here:

Fast forward one year. Mettrum established their new facility in the more welcoming town of Bowmanville. They received one of the first licenses to produce marijuana in Canada. And so began the challenge of taking on new patients and educating physicians on a product they really didn’t know much about.

Over the next two years, Hifyre was tasked with developing an industry first system that would allow physicians to create, sign and submit patient medical documents online. Hifyre developed a new and innovative software program that also streamlined the patient registration from a two week manual approval process to one that could be done within the hour online. This proved to be an interesting process for Hifyre. Working within the constraints of Health Canada’s strict regulations proved to be a challenge. But ultimately, one worth taking.

Up next was the online store. Creating any old e-commerce site is a breeze, but creating one that has many restrictions, limitations, and deviations from the standard ‘add to cart’ is a whole other ball game! But given the fact that we have always embraced challenges as opportunities to create and innovate… we managed to build and maintain the most robust and tightly controlled online shopping experience in the industry today.

The final piece in the digital toolset we created for Mettrum was a portal for their Customer Service Reps. This portal would make managing their quickly growing patient base more efficient and precise. After working closely with Mettrum’s operations, customer service, and finance departments, we were able to create a custom tool that would not only deliver easy access to the deep information needed to better serve their patients, but helped maintain the constraints required to stay within compliance of the Health Canada regulations. This CSR tool also helps manage all of their physicians, expands on the streamlining of the patient approval process, manages all digital documents, tracks orders (both phone and online) and includes instant access to much need reporting.

Mettrum today stands as the second largest Licensed Producer of Medical Marijuana in Canada. Over 15,000 patients. Tens of millions of dollars in online sales. And growing rapidly. We believe this is partly to do with the systems that Hifyre helped them build. And partly to do with all of the great employees at Mettrum.

Which brings us to our proudest moment yet. On December 1, 2016, we woke up to the news that the largest Medical Marijuana company in Canada, Canopy Growth Corporation, made an offer to purchase Mettrum for $430 million.

Helping a client go from $0 to $430 million had it’s glorious moments, and it’s challenges. For us at Hifyre, it’s been a wild ride. For the team at Mettrum, we’re sure it’s been even crazier. We have grown with Mettrum. We have learned from Mettrum. They have provided us with a platform to do some of our most challenging and rewarding work to date. We look to the future, and can’t help but get excited about what is coming next, as Mettrum joins the Canopy family.


Tech North report aims to foster regional tech supercluster

A roundtable of regional tech startup heavyweights (including founders, ecosystem supporters, school deans, etc.) helped to put together an excellent report entitled Tech North: Building Canada’s first technology supercluster.

“Canada’s nascent technology supercluster in the Toronto-Waterloo region has the potential to become one of the world’s top innovation ecosystems. This report examines how this can be achieved and what could move Toronto-Waterloo to global technology supercluster status.

You can find the report here. Obviously for branding reasons there’s a logic in calling it the Toronto-Waterloo corridor… Waterloo’s brand in tech is first-class and Toronto is a major centre in North America – but it’s nice to see Hamilton, other urban centres, and their assets are included in the report and vision for the region as well.



Ho Ho Hamilton tech for kids music program

Originally posted on


Mr. Shannon, the Music teacher at Dr. Davey Elementary in Hamilton, has only 20 guitars in his under funded music program, which is 10 guitars short of a complete class set and the ability to actually teach guitar.

Weever Apps has supported the Jump Start program in the past – a great charity that provides children with the opportunity to participate in sports. This year we have decided to support Mr. Shannon and his music program by collecting donations. Our goal is to raise $2,000 by December 15th so that Mr. Shannon can purchase the guitars over the Christmas break.

We are inviting other tech companies in Hamilton to take a collection in your office. Funds raised can then be dropped off to Weever Apps @ 144 James Street S. Studio 3 before December 15th.

Let’s give these kids a chance to be the next Hamilton success story. The next Junkhouse, Arkells, Monster Truck, Teenage Head may be at Dr. Davey right now! If you have any questions or would like to make a donation please contact


Hack the City looking for volunteers



Hack The City is looking for volunteers to interview groups of post-secondary students tackling challenges in health, energy and transportation! Check out the details below:


Volunteers Needed to Interview Student Change Makers
We are still on the hunt for additional volunteers to interview teams of local postsecondary students eager to advance to the next stage of Hack the City, an innovative project designed to engage young innovators in helping to tackle complex community challenges.
Volunteers are needed:
Sat. Nov 26, 9-12 noon at the Hamilton Chamber Offices, 120 King Street West in downtown Hamilton.

To sign-up, contact Richard Allen at or 905-572-0363.
The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce is a proud sponsor of Hack the City. Other key sponsors include City of Hamilton, HCE Energy Inc., HCE Telecom, Hamilton Health Sciences, Hamilton HIVE, Hamilton Utilities Corporation, IBM and McMaster University. If you work for any of these organizations, please consider acting on this exciting and highly rewarding volunteer opportunity.



HamOnt.js follow-up meetup with Alex Spokinka

When: Thursday December 1st at 6:30pm – 9:00pm

Where: CoMotion on King at 115 King Street East, Hamilton, Ontario



Just a casual meetup to follow-up on the HamOnt.js JavaScript conference we had on October 22nd!


Alex Spokina – CEO of Tasytt

Alex Sopinka (@alexsopinka) will describe how he built an award-winning Slack bot in just 30 days.  They are commonly done in node.js and that’s what we used with Obie (  Alex will talk about building the bot (arguably the easiest part), common things to watch out for, integrating with large existing systems, and handling upgrades.  One award Obie has won so far: of the Year 2016 – Human Resources).  Also currently nominated for Canadian HR Awards’s Choice: Best Service Provider)


First ever F#ck up Friday event October 21st



When: Friday October 21st 2016 from 8:00am – 10:00am

Where: CoMotion 302 at 302 Cumberland Avenue Hamilton, Ontario

Organizer: CoMotion 302



bronwynEver feel like you are doing everything wrong while everyone else has got it right? That’s where F#ck Up Fridays come in. It allows entrepreneurs to share their stories of where they “f#cked up” and what they learned from it.

Everyone gets to share their stories and swap ideas. Once a month will feature a different keynote speaker and then open discussions. Meet with others and remind yourself you aren’t a F#ck Up.

Join us for the inaugural session October 21, with Keynote Speaker Bronwyn Mondoux.

Some of the topics covered include:

– HR Practices, contracts, and documentation

– Red flags & when to walk away

– Pricing structure & getting PAID!

– Confidence & Control (when it’s worth it, and when you let it go)

Breakfast will start at 8am with time for networking, then Bronwyn starts at 8:30!


Employers wanted for YWCA Women in IT program



The WIT program funded by Ontario Women’s Directorate is a free employment program open to women facing multiple barriers to skills upgrading and access employment in the IT sector. The program provides academic training through Mohawk College, personal development and job search support to program participants.

Participants in the program are currently taking the Web Design and Development certificate program at Mohawk as their academic training. They will complete it on August 19th. Following their academic training is their placement as web developers/designers or similar role in the IT sector. Participants have knowledge in HTML5, CSS3, WordPress and Photoshop.

YWCA is wondering if you are open to providing placement opportunities to 1 or more women in the WIT program at your company. Placement will be from September 2016 to December 2016 (12 weeks). Schedule can be arranged but should be at least 20 hours per week.

Please let Jupiter Deveau know if you are able to accommodate and we can provide you with more information about the placement.

Thank you.

Jupiter Deveau
Career Development Specialist
Women in IT (Information Technology)
YWCA Hamilton
75 MacNab Street South
Hamilton, ON L8P 3C1
T: (905) 522 9922 ext 142
F: 905.521.6455
S: jupiter.deveau


Hamilton Spectator Reader’s Choice awards



The Hamilton Spectator Reader’s Choice awards are taking place this year, and the Best New Business in 2015/2016 features several Hamilton-area startups and former DemoCamp demo-ers like Bruha and Tasytt.

“Every year The Hamilton Spectator hosts an online nomination site at where people from the community can go to nominate their favourite businesses and/or professionals from the Hamilton area so they can be recognized.”

Nominate some of your favourite businesses today!