The Hottest Tech Companies of Canada's Silicon Valley
By Michael Lockhart
Since the 1980s, the Kitchener-Waterloo area has earned itself a reputation for growing the minds, talent, and ideas of some of the brightest technology and IT minds in the country. While Silicon Valley (proper) and Fortune 500 companies regularly turn to this region of Ontario to source new graduates and snap-up talent – Wall Street and Bay Street set their eyes on the emerging and established companies that call KW home; five of which I’m profiling today as we look at some of the hottest companies that are making their mark in this field.
From drones to wearables, intelligent marketing to space manufacturing, here are the ‘must-apply’ tech hubs of 2016.
Thalmic Labs – www.thalmic.com
Thalmic Labs is a Kitchener-based tech company which is pioneering new and innovative ways of interacting with digital-enabled devices. Best known for their wearable Myo™ armband, the company is focused on developing gear and solutions that allow us to connect with the technology of the future. While wearables are all the rage with devices such as Fitbit and the Apple Watch, which rely on our direct input to work, Thalmic is helping lead the way for technology (appropriately known as Gesture Control) that measures electrical activity in our muscles to wirelessly control devices such as computers, phones and other digital tech (the camera-mounted drone is being controlled by this technology? in the photo above).
This is even more impressive considering the three University of Waterloo co-founders only started the company in 2012 after graduation, which now counts seasoned executives among its ranks. Now, while being smart may help get you in the door, the company advocates that new hires must have a passion for the company’s vision and direction to be considered for the job. Once in, employees enjoy a comprehensive company culture that includes fitness and transit subsidies, catered meals, as well as an open vacation policy. This complements an already active program of hackathons (for creative thinking and team work), biweekly happy hours, and ‘Thalmic Mic’d’: a frequent knowledge-sharing program in which colleagues and external experts discuss trends, insights, and other topics of interest.
Skills Development: ‘Thalmic Mic’d’ knowledge-sharing program, event and conference participation
Cool Perks: Open vacation policy, happy hour, hackathons
Mantra in Three Words: Challenging, Entrepreneurial, Fulfilling
Vidyard – www.vidyard.com
Also hailing from Kitchener, Vidyard is a specialized marketing company offering hosting, distribution and management services, for videos aimed at marketers looking to optimize their videos for better conversion and engagement. The company’s proprietary analytics platform allows businesses to understand exactly who is watching their videos, how long, how many times and more, leading to better insights into their clients’ content, customers and business. Employees, or Vidyardians as they’re known, come to Vidyard for the interesting and challenging work, and the opportunity to define a new category.
The company’s trademark transparent culture allows employees at all levels to gain access to how they play a larger part in the success of the company, leading to a higher sense of value in their day-to-day work. Grads and new hires joining the team often find a fast-growing and rewarding career which comes complete with paid development and learning experiences, unlimited paid vacation (take the time you need!), transit, fitness/wellness subsidies, free lunch and best of all – an ownership stake in the company via stock options.
Skills Development: Sales Academy to arm sellers with advanced, transferable skills and CFO-hosted “SaaS-Y” sessions educate the team on important financial measures and company benchmarks
Cool Perks: Free lunch, stock options, unlimited vacation
Mantra in Three Words: Hustle, Family, Winning
eSentire – www.esentire.co
A leader in continuous advanced threat protection, eSentire is a service-based solutions company that works in managed cybersecurity services. The company’s flagship offering is Active Threat Protection, a cutting-edge program which uses behavior-based analytics and actionable intelligence to mitigate and respond to cybersecurity threats for their clients on a 24/7 basis.
Tech gurus joining the company find themselves a part of a dedicated team of security experts who continuously monitor eSentire’s customers’ networks to detect and block cyber-attacks in real-time. As they work in a field which is continually evolving and changing, eSentire employees are offered challenging opportunities in an exciting growth and learning-based environment. This includes investing in employee continuing education to build individual skills sets as well as providing the resources needed to continue to stay ahead of the rapidly-changing cybersecurity field.
Skills Development: Subsidized industry conferences and training programs, mentorships
Cool Perks: Catered lunches, half-day off birthdays, concierge services (dry cleaning, shopping, etc.)
Mantra in Three Words: Innovative, Collaborative, Growth
Aeryon Labs – www.aeryon.com
The shining star of Canada’s small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) a.k.a. drone technology; Aeryon is consistently in the spotlight at some of the most important world events and in media across the globe. Used primarily for aerial intelligence gathering for everything from military to public safety, Aeryon’s Waterloo-designed flying robots are equipped with options such as integrated cameras or chemical sensors that are intended to function in extreme or rugged locations or environments.
As a mid-sized company in a fast-growing industry, Aeryon’s IT and tech superstars are responsible for the close design and integration of the software and hardware applications that get this next-gen technology off the ground and working reliably. To achieve this level of success, employees routinely have the opportunity switch up their work environment by getting hands-on experience working with the technology in the field. This allows them to fully understand the real-world applications and capabilities of their products and software, giving them further insight into developing advanced functionalities for their technology.
Skills Development: Co-op positions, professional development opportunities
Cool Perks: Hands-on experience, team lunches, Friday BBQs, DRONES!
Mantra in Three Words: Can Impact Success
COM DEV www.comdev.ca
One of the world’s most prolific suppliers of space and satellite hardware, COM DEV has supplied parts for no less than 950 satellites that have taken to space (think 80% of all commercial satellites to reach orbit!). A leader in the industry for more than 40 years, the company’s employees pride themselves on their role in helping to change and connect the world through the technology and software they design and build for leading manufacturers around the globe.
To keep the best and the brightest, COM DEV invests in its employees through a rigorous development and training program to build leadership skills. In addition, 35 courses are offered in-house for training and industry certifications, as well as tuition reimbursement, skills trades program, and grad degree support (up to $40K). The company offers flexible work options for its employees, as well as several on-the-job conveniences such as a meditation room, open-concept cafeteria and an on-site communications centre. Throw in occasional visits from astronauts and space industry leaders and you have one dynamic working environment!
Skills Development: 35 in-house courses, high-potential employee development
Cool Perks: Astronaut visits, on-site massage therapy and half-day Fridays during the summer
Mantra in Three Words: Passion, Integrity, Excellence