AI investment grows in Canada during first half of year

Published: July 28, 2017

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones



Artificial Intelligence (AI) as seen substantial investment growth in Canada during the first half of 2017. The quarterly MoneyTree Canada Report from PwC Canada and CB Insights shows that AI was responsible or US$162 million in investments over 12 separate deals through the first six months of the year.

This represents a record high in AI investment in Canada, but the report points out that investments in venture-backed companies slowed. Funding fell 14% to US$885 million during the period, while deals fell from 170 to 127.

A US$102 million round of funding pushed up AI investments to US$162 million, with more deals taking place this year than last.

“The increase of corporate investments in AI is shaping Canada as a leader in this sector,” suggested Chris Dulny, national technology industry leader with PwC Canada. “Canadian companies are attracting larger investments from top [venture capitals] (VCs) who are increasingly focused on our homegrown tech talent and innovation. The funding landscape which includes corporate and government funding makes Canada a top destination for international investors who are keen to see tech reach its full potential.”

Toronto remained the leading hub for general investments, with US$107 million invested across 24 deals. However, the region dropped in terms of the number of deals and the amount of dollars invested. While AI investment grew, general ventures were down:

“This wasn’t a great quarter for Canada’s venture ecosystem especially when viewed against the global and U.S. funding and deal trends our data reveals,” said Anand Sanwal, co-founder and CEO of CB Insights, in the release. “There are, however, some positive signals, including the resilience in seed-stage deal activity and the continued presence of corporate and corporate VC investors. In addition, as artificial intelligence startups have risen to the fore globally, Canadian companies working in AI are also gaining momentum and interest.”

Other highlights in the report include:

  • Seed-stage deal share has bounced back after falling below 40% for two consecutive quarters, as Q2 2017 saw seed share rising to 45%. Expansion-stage deal share also hit an eight-quarter high, accounting for 19% of Q2 2017 deals;
  • Despite the slowing Canadian funding environment overall, 26% of all deals to Canadian companies featured at least one corporate or corporate venture capital investor in Q2 2017, climbing for the second consecutive quarter and setting a fresh eight-quarter high;
  • Internet deal share reached an eight-quarter high of 53% amid soft Healthcare and Mobile & Telecom activity. Healthcare deal share in particular dipped to an eight-quarter low, representing just 7% of the Q2 2017 total and down from the 20% high of Q1 2017;
  • Digital Health annual funding also already reached an annual high of US$106 million, although deal pace is on track to fall short of last year’s figure; and

On a trailing-twelve-month basis, investors based in Canada represented at least 50% of all active investors in Canadian companies across seed, early and expansion stages, with later-stage deals being the lone exception. U.S. investor participation rate was 33% or greater