StartupBlink Blog

With a population of over 972,223 people and as Canada’s 5th largest city, Edmonton is the capital of Alberta and known as one of Canada’s sunniest cities. With global companies such as Google investing in this city, it comes as no surprise that this sunny city is becoming one of Canada’s biggest players in the tech world. 

Edmonton claimed rank 91 in the StartupBlink 2020 Startup Ecosystem Ranking Report, moving up from 95 in 2019. 

For Edmonton’s rankings in the Startup Blink Global map click here

Unique Ecosystem Advantages:

  • Top 100 Startup Ecosystem 
  • Best city for 15-29 year olds in Canada
  • One of 3 national hubs of the Canadian AI strategy
  • 20+ organizations offering incubation programs and services
  • Home to the third-best university incubator in the world (TEC Edmonton)

Overview of Edmonton’s Startup Ecosystem 

From data collected by the StartupBlink 2020 Startup Ecosystem Ranking Report, the GDP per capita is $67,302. Additionally, the average cost of living is 37% cheaper than London. This makes Edmonton an affordable city that provides startups with strategic geographical access to many larger tech hubs within Canada. Canada is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world and has some of the most tech-advanced cities. 

According to the World Bank, Canada is one of the most exemplary countries when it comes to stability, sustainable prosperity, and economic inclusion. Home to over 394 tech companies Edmonton is one of Western Canada’s most dynamic start-up ecosystems. As one of Canada’s youngest populations, home to over 125,000 students the city is filled with innovation and talent. One of it’s leading education establishments is The University of Alberta which is consistently ranked in the global top three for AI & Machine Learning. Furthermore TEC Edmonton hosts the third-best university incubator in the world. 

Edmonton is amongst some of the best cities in the world and situated in one of the most technologically advanced countries worldwide, this city is bustling with opportunity and provides an excellent ecosystem for start-ups. Edmonton’s over performing verticals are energy and the environment, boasting an ecosystem which encourages start-ups to think environmentally, as well as health, with start-ups in the healthcare systems ranking Edmonton at number 31 globally. 

What gives Edmonton a competitive advantage? 

Edmonton is Western Canada’s most prominent startup hub. With one of Canada’s youngest populations and 6 higher education establishments, Edmonton produces over 550 tech-sector graduates each year. Worth mentioning is that 5 of the top scientists at Google are University of Alberta graduates. With an increasing number of these talented graduates wanting to spend more time in the vibrant metropolitan city of Edmonton it has transformed into one of the best cities in Canada for 15 to 29 year olds. 

As well as hosting an increasingly young and educated population Edmonton boasts a collaborative community with a variety of institutions working together to shape Edmonton’s future into one of an innovative ecosystem. The municipal government currently has six innovation projects as part of its priorities (Health City Initiative, Open Data Portal, CITYLab, Business Technology Strategy, Autonomous Vehicle Pilot Project, Smart City.). 

Edmonton has a favourable tax market and boasts some of the lowest taxes in the country. There are no provincial sales tax, no payroll tax, no health care premiums, and some of the lowest personal and corporate income taxes in Canada. Edmonton is also 37% cheaper to live in than London, low home prices paired with high median incomes make Edmonton one of the most affordable cities in Canada. 

Lastly one of the most prominent developments within the city of Edmonton is the increase in start-ups and research based projects focused on AI and Machine Learning. With an ecosystem which feeds talented young minds into the community, the fields of AI and Machine learning are growing quickly. The development of the tech ecosystems is one of the most attractive competitive advantages of this Canadian city. 

Tech development and Social Enterprise 

A big focus for the Edmonton startup ecosystem is tech development, most notably software orientated development. Edmonton’s technology and innovation ecosystem are evolving rapidly. As one of 3 national hubs of the Canadian AI strategy, research and the application of artificial intelligence (AI) tools is one of Edmonton, and its region, biggest strengths. Examples of successful AI startups include Medo AINanoprecise Sci Corp, and Gabbi AI. Edmonton offers startups in tech and AI an incredible ecosystem for them to thrive in, with some of the best researchers and creators finding themselves in the region, all collaborating to generate real investment opportunities in artificial intelligence. 

Social enterprise is another factor that contributes to Edmonton’s startup ecosystem success. Home to the third-best university incubator in the world at TEC Edmonton, the city offers some of the best incubation programs and services. Startup Edmonton is an excellent example of some of the organisations working towards developing Edmonton into a hub for start-ups. 

Collaboration in Innovation

While larger Canadian cities keep sliding backward and losing momentum, ecosystems like Edmonton make sure that Canada has alternatives and keeps pushing forward with innovation. Edmonton has achieved a blossoming startup ecosystem through having a public sector that is engaged in actively developing their private sector and entrepreneurs.

According to the Mayor of Edmonton, Don Iveson, ‘Edmonton is becoming a primary mover in the global tech community. And it is happening fast. Google has invested in Edmonton. Stantec just opened its door to the largest tower in Canada west of Toronto. We have the University of Alberta, NAIT and the Advanced Technology Centre as well as numerous tech-led companies all leading the way in advanced research and innovation right here in Edmonton.’ 

Edmonton has developed an impressive coworking community and has many options for startups looking to network and share workspaces with like minded companies. This is a leading factor to Edmonton’s success as it allows different startups to work together to create synergy within the ecosystem. Coworking spaces like Round HouseUnit B, and Work Nicer Coworking are examples of some of Edmonton’s startup and coworking hubs.

Response to COVID-19 

Canada has invested a lot of money to support startups and SMEs during the pandemic. For example, by providing $250 million to the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program to assist innovative, early-stage companies and by providing $20.1 million to Futurpreneur Canada to continue to support young entrepreneurs across Canada. 

As part of the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund, the Government of Canada through Western Economic Diversification Canada has invested $1.3 million to provide support to Alberta startups in order to help ecosystem growth during the pandemic. The Innovation Relief and Recovery Program is designed to provide COVID relief and recovery funding for pre-and post-revenue high potential, high growth, technology, or knowledge-based startups in Alberta.

Promising Startups

Edmonton has 162 currently active startups on the StartupBlink map. The city excels in technology and innovation focused startups. Here are some of the most interesting startups from the list.

Zept – helps international students get into the best schools possible using an algorithm that recommends schools matching their goals and abilities.

Drivewyze – delivers unsurpassed time-saving and cost-effective driving solutions to commercial vehicle operators and carriers.

MEDO.ai – AI platform that makes ultrasound workflow faster, more reliable and accessible to all.

Accelerators and Initiatives

With a large variety of accelerator programs and initiatives, Edmonton’s startup ecosystem stands out from other cities in North America. Edmonton offers a plethora of funding and opportunities, especially to startups, through a number of programs. Below is a list of some of Edmonton’s most prominent accelerator programs and initiatives:

Student DevCon – An annual event that encourages students to start planning for life after school founded by Startup Edmonton. This initiative focuses on connecting students with local companies and startups to gain hands-on experience and learn about the career opportunities available to them. 

Talent Program Startup Edmonton – Another initiative by Startup Edmonton this program focuses on fostering relationships between companies and students. These students are potential employees and this relationship allows for companies to teach students valuable life skills which will be important for their future careers, whilst inspiring them to pursue careers in the startup ecosystem of Edmonton. 

Edmonton Innovation Ecosystem Community (EIEC)– This community is made up of a network of service providers, entrepreneurs and investors who are allahabad dedicated in creating an environment which will facilitate future developments in technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. This is an open group who gather once a month to share news and strategize about expanding the innovation ecosystem in Edmonton. 

YEG Innovation Compass – Led by Edmonton-based Marketing firm ZGM this entrepreneur engagement efforts is committed in shaping the future of Edmonton’s innovation ecosystem and have developed five priority action areas to focus the efforts of the community. 

Edmonton Advisory Council on Startups (EACOS)– This diverse group was formed in 2018 to act as the voice of their respective entrepreneurial communities. Today they act as important advocates for Edmonton’s tech-enabled startup community. 

SingularityU Canada Summit – In April 2019 Edmonton hosted the SingularityU Canada Summit, Canada’s leading innovation and technology summit. Expert panel presentations, open discussions and product demos allowed attendees to experience the future empowering a global community of innovators. 

Community Events – The Edmonton Startup community hosts hundreds of events each year including meet-ups, workshops, conferences and forums which educate and inform the entrepreneurs, investors and service providers of Edmonton providing one of the most dynamic startup innovation scenes and ecosystems in Canada. 

Key Organizations

Edmonton’s success is thanks to a variety of organizations and businesses who work together to create an ecosystem for startups which is filled with innovation and education. Some of the organizations listed below have devoted their time to create a welcoming community, especially for startups: 

Innovate Edmonton – Innovate Edmonton is a new non-profit entity formed in May 2020 by Edmonton’s City Council and led by an independent Board focused on supporting and guiding the innovation community in Edmonton to build and prosper.  Innovate Edmonton contributes to Edmonton’s economic growth and diversification through the creation of new tech-enabled businesses, by helping high potential businesses scale, and by inspiring action to fuel growth in the city’s innovation and entrepreneurship community.

Startup Edmonton – Supporting entrepreneurs as they build and grow tech-enabled products is at the heart of everything we do. We’re here to help you each step of the way with mentorship & programs, coworking space, community events, and lots of support to grow your team. Since 2009, we have brought together entrepreneurs, developers, students, founders, mentors, & investors to transform ideas into some of Canada’s most exciting and successful startup & scaling companies.

Alberta Women Entrepreneurs – Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to enabling women to build successful businesses. AWE provides unique programs and services to women at all stages of business through advising, financing, mentoring, and skills and network development.

BusinessLink – Find the most relevant funding, get free startup advice, training and market research, and access the knowledge and tools you need to plan and grow your business.

Startup Summary

Given the remote location of a city like Edmonton from the main cities of Canada, it’s extremely impressive to see how well this startup ecosystem is doing. Edmonton is not only a top 100 startup ecosystem city but is also performing exceptionally in the energy, environment and health verticals.

To summarize, Edmonton is a city that excels in providing its startups with the means to grow. Through innovation, collaboration and public sector facilitation, Edmonton has seen outstanding results in their startup ecosystem development. 

For more information on startup ecosystems download the Startup Blink 2020 Global Report

Contributor