Future of Canadian Unicorns Looks Promising

Md Saifur Rahman & Ken Grant | Ted Rogers School of Management

A WEKH project is examining the role of women in the creation and management of Unicorn startups. “Unicorns” are fast growth startups with an estimated value greater than USD 1 billion. The study is also considering “Soonicorns”, high value startups with significant value that are Unicorn potential.

The number of Unicorn startups in Canada significantly increased in 2020, from 2 Unicorns in 2019 to 7 by the end of 2020, the most unique and uncertain year since the emergence of this new category of startup. While none of these 7 Unicorns have a female co-founder, women make up around a quarter of the leadership team in these startups, with 23 women holding a position of Vice President or higher out of a combined 91 leadership roles in these 7 Unicorns.

In addition, the future of Canadian Unicorns looks very promising. As of January 2021, there are 56 Soonicorns, with several of these having at least one female co-founder. Since 2018, global studies show about 10% of Unicorn startups are founded by at least one female co-founder. Soonicorns in Canada are slightly ahead of this trend with 14% having at least one female co-founder. These companies also have a good balance of female members in the senior management team as well.

The top three women-led Soonicorns from Canada are all valued above USD 600 million and have the potential to reach the Unicorn status within a few years. Of the 8 women-led Soonicorns, LiveKindly is leading the pack with an estimated valuation of over USD 800 million, followed by Element AI and Geneseeq, each of which are estimated to be valued at around USD 650-700 million according to different electronic media sources. Disclosed funding of all these 3 Soonicorns are above USD 200 million, with LiveKindly raising USD 335 million over two rounds. Element AI has raised over USD 257M of funding in 4 rounds and Geneseeq has raised around USD 200 million in five rounds of funding.

The list of the 8 Canadian Soonicorns and their female co-founders are shown below:

Table 1: 8 Soonicorns with at least 1 female co-founder

SlSoonicorn StartupFemale Co-founder(s)Disclosed Funcing
1LiveKindlyJodi MonelleUSD 335 M
2Element AIAnne MartelUSD 257 M
3GeneseeqXiaonan Wang and Xue WuUSD 200 M
4ClearBancMichele RomanowUSD 170 M
5DialogueAnna ChifUSD 88 M
6TruliooTanis JorgeUSD 83 M
7MapleRoxana ZamanUSD 72 M
8PDFTronCatherine AnderszUSD 71 M

These Soonicorns are run by some of the most dynamic and focused individuals that are working very hard to transform these startups to be the next generation Canadian Unicorns. Here are some of the notable female entrepreneurs that are managing these Soonicorns amazingly well.

Jodi Monelle, CEO and Founder at LIVEKINDLY

Jodi Monelle is the Founder and CEO at LIVEKINDLY, a leading plant-based lifestyle brand that has raised over USD 335 million. Jodi is highly focused on empowering people to make positive changes – big or small – in their own lives and how their daily actions make a difference in the world. LIVEKINDLY has the highest growth and engagement rate of any plant-based digital community, making it the go-to platform for millions of people regardless of their dietary choices. (Source: Company Website & LinkedIn)

Anne Martel, Co-Founder and Chief Administrative Officer at Element AI

Anne Martel is a serial entrepreneur and is one of the Co-founders and Chief Administrative Officer of Element AI, a firm that offers custom AI development solutions for enterprises. Anne previously owned and managed Genie Audio, a company focusing on manufacturing and distribution of medical devices, from which she successfully exited in 2014. Anne holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University; and is a passionate art enthusiast and philanthropist. (Source: Company Website)

Xue Wu, CEO of Geneseeq Technology Inc. Canada

Dr. Xue Wu joined Geneseeq Technology Inc. in 2014 as the Director of Research & Development, where she provided strategic direction and oversight focusing on diagnostic technology and product development, pipeline optimization and translational research in the field of cancer. In 2018, She was promoted to President & CEO of Geneseeq Canada, and continued to lead the company’s in its next stage of growth. Dr. Wu holds a PhD in Cell and Molecular biology from University of Toronto, and a MSc in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology from Dalhousie University. (Source: Company Website)

Michele Romanow, Co-founder & President of Clearbanc

Michele Romanow is the President and a Co-founder at Clearbanc, a company that provides revenue-based finance for e-commerce and SaaS-based small business owners and entrepreneurs. Michele is the youngest ever entrepreneur to join CBC’s hit show Dragons’ Den. She previously co-founded e-commerce platforms SnapSaves (acquired by Groupon) and Buytopia. Michele is ranked in WXN’s “100 Most Powerful in Canada” and listed as the only Canadian on Forbes’ “Millennial on a Mission” list. She is a director on the board of Vail Resorts, Freshii, SHAD, Smith School of Business and League of Innovators. (Source: Company Website)