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.
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.
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.