The Index: Five companies repping Sea to Sky country

Let’s meet a quintet of companies innovating north of the Lions Gate Bridge.

Photo by Aditya Chinchure on Unsplash.

We’ve summarized Strathcona, boasted about Burnaby, and mentioned Mount Pleasant. Now let’s take a drive north. A left off Main Street takes us over the Dunsmuir Viaduct, through downtown Vancouver, and towards the Lions Gate Bridge. It’s one of our region’s most scenic offerings. Coal Harbour’s glass condos give way to centuries-old hemlock and cedar trees that escort you toward a brilliant example of Art Deco engineering.

Over the bridge, it’s three mere turns before we’re on ribbons of tarmac that offer stunning views of Howe Sound to the left, while mountains escort us to the right. It’s a trip to a region where innovation is burgeoning. Let’s meet five companies with their roots in Sea to Sky country.

Co-founded out of a Whistler bedroom in a house that featured 16 (!) roommates, Bikebac is a purpose-built tracker for bikes that makes use of the Apple Find My network. By tapping into the millions of Apple devices worldwide, it provides a tracker that works the world over and without any subscription fees. Bikebac aims to start fulfilling orders in the coming weeks. It’s also partnered with Project 529 Garage, an online bike registry and database, to make it easier for its users to cross-register their bikes during setup.

Quotable: “We've been victims of having our bike go missing, and it's a feeling that sucks, and leaves us feeling violated and vulnerable. There's a few expensive tracking solutions on the market, but there's not really anything affordable.” - Co-founder Brian White.

Squamish-based Carbon Engineering commercializes technology that captures CO₂ directly from the air, and has a second technology that synthesizes it into clean, affordable transportation fuels. The local climatetech leader houses its dedicated technology development and innovation centre in the Sea To Sky city.

Notable: Carbon Engineering was recently acquired for a massive $1.1 billion by U.S. oil and gas producer Occidental Petroleum, to help it develop a string of carbon-capture sites it hopes will profit from tackling climate change.

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Construction tech company Nexii Building Solutions designs and manufactures innovative high-performance buildings and green building products. It boasts a robust facility in Squamish in addition to eye-popping funding receipts. After a USD $45 million investment in September 2021 — the company’s sixth round of funding — Nexii joined B.C.'s unicorn club, valued at $1.55 billion. A further CAD $45 million in July 2022 took it over the $2 billion threshold.

Notable: The company also tapped into a trio of non-dilutive funding sources en route to unicorn status.

Penny AI co-founders David Abbey (left) and Chris Noble. Photo supplied.

Penny AI is a Squamish-born, Vancouver-based software company developing tools for salespeople. The software is an AI-powered virtual assistant to sales consultants that provides contact management, prospecting, and communication solutions on a single platform. The company announced a USD $27 million (CAD $33.9 million) Series B round of funding in June 2022.

Notable: David Abbey, Penny’s CEO and co-founder, detailed the origin of the company on LinkedIn and wrote about how the startup was inspired by his wife, Terri Lynn.

She built a network marketing business with Rodan + Fields, a multi-level marketing company and skincare manufacturer. She found it challenging to maintain the growth of that business as her family grew. Exasperated, she remembers presenting David with a not-so-rhetorical statement after the birth of their third child: “There must be a better way.” He got building what would become Penny AI with co-founder and CTO, Chris Noble.

The honorific “sensei” refers to someone whose age and wisdom shapes their excellence as a teacher. Paola Telfer, the CEO and co-founder of the Whistler-based company Sens.ai, runs the business — a hardware/software play that provides neurotherapy — that shares not only the word’s pronunciation but its meaning, too.

Quotable: “[Neurotherapy] is not a new methodology by any stretch, but we are using technology to unleash it.” - Telfer (who is also a B.C.-based AI all-star to know.)

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