Canada’s Blockchain Ecosystem
When it comes to ‘unicorns’ (companies worth over $1 billion) or the Canadian version of it – ‘narwhals’ – Canada hasn’t seen too many in the last decade. The most prominent ones include the RIM, Shopify, OpenText, and Kik – a far cry from the tens of unicorns coming out of the United States. Therefore, when one comes along it’s cause for attention.
The Ethereum Foundation is one such narwhal that has emerged.
Welcome to Crypto Valley
Located in Zug, Switzerland, the financial capital of Europe, is the global capital of blockchain and is known as “Crypto Valley.”
Zug is the global capital mainly due to the Swiss citizen-controlled political system, which is neutral, stable, and lacks cumbersome regulations. Stable politics and other reasons such as its strong tradition of privacy legal security and ardent protection of intellectual & property rights are why the Ethereum Foundation and others have set up their headquarters there.
From Silicon Valley to Silicon “Tower”
Canada, despite being a relatively small player to start, is on the path to establishing itself as a global blockchain capital given its creation of Ethereum and its current path of political engagement with the tech community.
This path includes several major players within the Toronto/Waterloo-Region (“TOWR” or “TOWER”), the government, and legal branches such as the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) all working towards creating a more hospitable place for blockchain and cryptocurrency entrepreneurs, creators, and investors.
Network effects such as those brought on by the ‘Paypal Mafia’ in Silicon Valley, that brought about tech giants like Tesla, Solar City, and Palantir, are what brings about systemic, sustained, and scalable entrepreneurial success.
In Canada, the network effects of Ethereum coupled with the fastest growing tech market in North America have given rise to discussions about Toronto as a global innovation powerhouse.
From The GTA To Ottawa, Montreal, & Vancouver And Back Again
Education & Community Development
Community development is key in any ecosystem as communities increase collaboration, mutual-understanding, and the knowledge-base between those in the core and those outside of it. Organizations such as the National Crowdfunding Association of Canada, Fintech Canada, and Legaltech Canada are prominent community players as they organize major conferences and meetups.
At York University, an organization known as the Blockchain Hub has emerged to become the first Canadian nonprofit to grant certifications for becoming a blockchain developer, a breakthrough aided in part by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) connecting York University to downtown Toronto through a subway line extension.
Blockgeeks, an edtech company offering online courses about blockchain and cryptocurrencies has partnered with many others in the ecosystem to organize one of the first blockchain hackathons in Toronto. Soon after, another nonprofit called ETHWaterloo formed to create the largest blockchain hackathon in Canada to date, and to consolidate the Waterloo Region’s efforts within this space.
Agencies & Consultancies
Consultancies & agencies such as Chainsafe Systems and Ledger Labs – the first blockchain agency in Canada – are akin to educational forces, which tend to be systemically innovative players as they enable their clients and students to a path of self-development.
Vanbex, co-developer of the recent ICO of Polymath – the world’s first tokenized financial securities platform – and Privacy Shell are two leading global agencies based out of Vancouver and San Francisco, respectively. The former has co-developed blockchain forerunners such as Storj, Dash, Tendermint, whilst the latter has co-developed TodaCorp and Finasafe.
Traditional consultancies such as the Big 4 Consulting firms have also acted as a breeding ground of blockchain experts, as one of blockchain’s core use cases resides within accounting. One such expert is Toronto’s Iliana Oris-Valiente, out of Deloitte as well as founder of ColliderX, a R&D institute. She now heads Accenture’s global innovation efforts.
International Development & Startups
Another successful Canadian female tech entrepreneur that has emerged has been Anne Connelly, who graduated from Singularity University and is now spearheading another major use case of blockchain – social impact – with her company, the IXO Foundation. This social enterprise is focused on tackling the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals starting by capturing impact reports created by service providers on a global blockchain known as the Global Impact Ledger.
The world of blockchain and social innovation has many intersections, thanks to organizations such as The Centre for Social Innovation that the first OSC-regulated ICO was born in Canada, called Impak Finance (based out of Montreal).
Research & Development
The Blockchain Research Institute is especially important as it was founded by the Tapscott Group – another nonprofit founded by the early bitcoin investing father and son duo, Alex and Don Tapscott.
Innovation hubs such as the MaRS Centre or OneEleven in Toronto and Communitech in Waterloo (in collaboration with ETHWaterloo) are all key breeding grounds as they overlap with every other player in the space.
Companies like Decentral, which is currently supported by One Eleven, has been another first in this space, as they’re the developers of a leading cryptocurrency wallet – Jaxx.
This development, along with the following groups like CryptoConsultant, BlockchainTV, MLG Blockchain Consulting, and the Blockchain Law Society all coming together to form CryptoCorridor – a network of leading Canadian blockchain companies who’ve joined forces to boost this ecosystem to a world-class status.
Continuing on the theme of creating multi-city-wide initiatives, the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), Blockchain Canada, Blockchain Association of Canada, and the Blockchain Research Institute all recently formed to create the Blockchain Supercluster – which will be one of the several superclusters that the Canadian government will fund from a pool of $950 million in order to boost the Canadian innovation economy.
Venture Capital & Thought Leadership
William Mougayar remains prominent figure in this space, among others. He is a world-renowned blockchain investor, through his firm Virtual Capital Ventures, and author of the book Business Blockchain. He has mentored at NEXT Canada’s Next36 program in Toronto and is a leading voice for entrepreneurs and investors in this space.
These are by no means all the stories, but they exhibit the promise, power, and potential of Canada’s continual leadership in this space.
This article was updated to reflect Iliana Oris-Valiente’s past and current roles.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
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