Banking institutions around the world have been among the last to cling to an exclusively physical world. Until quite recently most citizens had to visit bank locations to perform even basic transactions.
Fortunately the market is changing rapidly. For example, you can invest in local real estate through a platform like Addy, or trade stocks and even cryptocurrency with Wealthsimple, all from your smartphone. The options already seem limitless compared to just one decade ago, and as new startups appear weekly, we can expect our range of options to only broaden further from here.
While Toronto’s financial district is Canada’s closet approximation to the infamous Wall Street, much attention has been drawn to the province of Alberta recently. Calgary-based venture studio Harvest Builders is well aware of this fact, and hoping to take advantage of an emerging market by investing in startups that are bringing traditional industries into the digital world.
“Our venture studio narrows in on industries which exhibit significant inefficiencies,” explains Chris Simair, managing partner for Harvest. “Within the studio’s fintech portfolio we look for opportunities to create shared value that leads to powerful network effects and accelerated growth. When entities work in synergy, their alignment and shared energy create value that goes beyond what they could have accomplished alone.”
Recognize the name Simair? Chris and his brother Josh founded a little-known startup in 2012 called SkipTheDishes. Now they’re back at it with something entirely different.
Harvest, which focuses on investment opportunities within the Prairies, boasts a few promising early portfolio companies. Let’s take a quick look at each of them.
Neo Financial offers consumers a high-interest savings account and no-fee credit card, which they claim is accessible to all Canadians regardless of income or credit rating.
Calgary’s Neo, which raised a substantial Series A round of funding late last year, looks to partner with brands to offer customers rewards for their spending. Recently the startup announced a partnership with big box retailer Hudson’s Bay.
“Neo Financial is focused on reimagining every financial touchpoint Canadians have, and rebuilding those experiences from the ground up with a customer-first approach,” noted Andrew Chau, CEO of Neo. “Our partnership with Hudson’s Bay demonstrates the opportunity in digital-first financial products and solutions that drive better value and experiences for customers.”
Neo’s funding round featured some notable investors, including Shopify founder Tobi Lütke and Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures. Valar has invested in similar digital bank startups in other countries such as Germany, Mexico, and France.
This startup is still flying under the radar. We do know the company is developing an end-to-end platform designed to create a personalized and transparent financial experience, including access to low-cost and alternative investment solutions, for Canadians.
Cofounded by Jakob Pizzera and Nathan Di Lucca, One Wealth impressed the investors behind Harvest and, based on their hunger for employees, appears to be growing even pre-launch.
“One Wealth has the advantage of a strong foundation for building thanks to its founders, Jakob and Nathan,” explains Simair. “They have extensive experience operating and scaling innovative companies across North America including Shopify, Kudos, Element AI, and Ritual.”
Currently, the company offers an email-based waitlist for updates ahead of its public launch.
Here we have another startup with SkipTheDishes pedigree. Proper was cofounded by Craig Adam, a former Skip executive turned CTO of this latest Harvest portfolio company. Hungry yet?
Calgary local Al-Karim Khimji, hailing from McKinsey & Company, is Adam’s teammate. He over a decade of experience in real estate, hospitality and development. He brings with him a decade of experience in real estate, hospitality, and development.
Propra plans to offer an end-to-end property management solution focused on improving the rental management process for both landlords and tenants. The fintech startup aims to create a seamless experience that solves inefficiencies across property management, searching, and transactions. The company claims its pricing will be both custom and competitive.
According to their website, Propra is “currently beta testing and will be launching across Canada soon.”
PROMISING PRAIRIE PORTFOLIO
As a nonprofit “co-builder of companies,” Harvest wants something deeper than just financial return: the venture studio wants to put Alberta on the map. Forget oil—there’s a rich, untapped well of tech, talent, and ambition simmering in the Prairies.
“By deploying private capital and attracting and developing world-class talent, we are creating an epicentre for future tech and innovation in Canada,” contends Simair.
These three financial technology startups are poised to add more than 300 jobs to Calgary’s within three years, according to Harvest Builders. No wonder they are all hiring at the upcoming Tech Talent Job Fair. The job fair, going down June 23, is a unique recruiting event that connects fast growing companies with top tech talent.