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Calgarys startup community rises to the challenge

The startup community in Calgary continues to prove that no matter what the challenge, it’s up for the task. When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, Calgary’s entrepreneurs had to reimagine their daily workflow to ensure they could continue to do business.

There are numerous success stories from Calgary’s startup community in the past months. Many showed that using technology and innovative ideas led to thriving in the current environment.

Going virtual

Rather than cancel workshops and information sessions, organizers of events like the Business Model Canvas and Startup Drinks & Pitches adopted online versions of their popular events. Turnout remained high, with more than 300 people attending different events in a three-month period. 

Startup Weekend Canada, which ran from April 24 to 26, hosted more than 450 people across the country for its annual event. This year, the teams focused on creating solutions across six key verticals: health, vulnerable populations, businesses, community, entertainment and education.

The top three pitches were awarded several local and global prizes including invitations to other startup events and in-kind access to services. It was a major event for Calgary teams;  Pharos, a platform that connects domestic abuse victims with available hotels and other accommodations when shelters are full, took home second place. HealthBot, a virtual travel assistant focused on health and safety alerts available to the general population, walked away with the third spot.

Helping with healthcare

Sharesmart is a platform that facilitates secure, real-time messaging, patient-consented secure file transfers and secure video consultations. The services allow healthcare providers to securely share information with each other as well as their patients.

The service is already being used in Calgary by hospitals and clinics to triage potential Covid-19 patients, provide pre-operative assessments and post-operative care, and to provide other types of virtual care by clinical, paramedical, allied health, and dental practices. To help make healthcare easier through the COVID-19 pandemic, the company launched its national services ahead of schedule.

Increased investments

In 2019, Alberta startups saw a record-breaking $227 million in venture capital investment activity through 39 deals. Calgary-based Virtual Gurus, a platform that matches businesses and entrepreneurs with freelance virtual assistants, continued the momentum into 2020 and raised $1.25 million in seed funding from Calgary investment collective The51, Vancouver-based Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, and Ryan Lailey in February. The company has also seen 38 per cent month over month growth and its annual recurring revenue grew from $1.3 million pre-COVID to its current $1.7 million. 

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