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Cantech Investment Conference brings Canadian tech companies, investors together

Tags: Technology

The Cantech Investment Conference is looking to take advantage of the recent commodities bust, and turn it into a tech boom.

The conference, started by the influential Cantech Letter, has doubled in size in its second year - attracting 1,200 attendees in 2015. Editor Nick Waddell says his goal for the conference is to bring investors and Canadian technology companies together. “Tech has been drastically undervalued here in Canada,” he says. “Technology makes up about 3-5 percent of the TSX right now. It could easily be closer to 10 percent.”

Industry veteran Tom Liston agrees. After 14 years as an equity analyst, Liston has spent the last year at Michael Wekerle’s Difference Capital (DCF.TO), investing in unlisted Canadian companies. “The breadth and depth of private tech companies has never been better in this country.”

With the decline of the resources sector, investors are looking for ways to diversify portfolios. And tech companies hope to fill the void says Prakash Hariharan, chairman of data analytics company AnalytixInsight (ALY.V) which went public in 2013. “It was an easy process. There’s so much demand for Venture technology stocks,” says Hariharan. “I was a fund manager for 12 years, and I didn’t realize how much demand there was for these companies.”

That interest led to a technology boom on the TSX Venture in 2014. 37 firms in the innovation sector listed on the Venture last year, the highest number of new tech listings in more than 5 years. Technology firms raised more than $1 billion dollars on the junior exchange last year, and $6 billion overall in Toronto.

Listing on the TSX Venture was an important step for AnalytixInsight. “When we went public, we didn’t really have a revenue profile,” says Hariharan. “But listing on the Venture helped us secure licensing agreements. Potential customers were more comfortable dealing with a public company, knowing that we had a board of directors and public oversight.”

Investors hope other Canadian tech firms follow AnalytixInsight’s lead and stay north of the border. “A lot of Canadian companies want to list on the NASDAQ, but I’m trying to convince them to at least cross-list on the TSX,” says Liston. “There’s so much demand for stocks that aren’t resources or financials in Canada, and smaller tech companies can benefit from that.”

One company considering that path is Chango - one of the hottest names at Cantech 2015. The big data marketing company has raised more than $12 million in funding, while more than doubling its revenue last year. CEO Chris Sukornyk says the company is happily private - for now. “We’ve explored a dual-listing [in Canada and the U.S.]” says Sukornyk. “We’ve been surprised by the demand for us to go public.”

But for now, Chango is looking to grow its business before going to the public market. The company has already hired 50 engineers in the Waterloo, Ontario region.

“The technology community here in Canada is very strong,” says Sukornyk. “We can attract premium talent that we might not be able to get in Silicon Valley or New York.”

That community is what Cantech’s Nick Waddell is trying to highlight with this conference. “95 percent of the great Canadian tech companies are private. Bay Street wants them to go public. We hope we can help bring those interests together.”

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