Ritual, Wattpad and Wealthsimple are the private Canadian tech firms subscribers feel most optimistic about, according to the results from our subscriber surveys.
For the past six months, The Logic has been regularly polling subscribers on how they feel about 33 leading companies divided into three groups: private Canadian technology firms, public technology firms and major public Canadian companies. Subscribers were asked to rate how they currently viewed the long-term prospects of each company on a scale ranging from from “extremely negative” to “extremely positive.”
Charts breaking out the results for each company are below. The full charts for each of the three categories are available for subscribers at the following links: private Canadian technology, public technology, public Canadian.
Among other insights, the results show that subscribers think highest of Canadian firm Wealthsimple, which came in first place nearly every month. Subscribers also view Canada’s Ritual positively; it led among Canadian private tech firms in February after announcing its international expansion. Lower-rated companies include the country’s Big Three telecoms—Bell, Telus and Rogers—and Coinsquare, the cryptocurrency exchange.
On average, Canadian private tech firms received a score of 18.3 points out of a possible 100. Though they had the lowest average of the three groups, many of the companies included are newer startups. The top companies of this group were those who made news outside of Canada, including Wattpad, Ritual and Wealthsimple.
The average for Canadian public firms was 30.4 points. The lowest of the group included the country’s major telecoms—Bell, Rogers and Telus—as well as Canadian Tire and Shaw. Telus scored highest of the telecoms; it peaked at fifth place in January with 50 points. The telecoms’ low scores come amid reports that Canadians pay some of the highest mobile fees in the world.
However, the five largest banks—TD Bank, Scotiabank, CIBC, RBC and BMO—typically led the chart, though Loblaw occasionally took fifth place and, in October 2018, climbed to third.
The public tech firm chart had the highest average of the three, with 38.2 points. The chart was buoyed by strong results for all the FAANGS except Facebook, which came in last from October 2018 to January 2019. Over the six months, Shopify averaged fifth place, the highest among Canadian firms in this group.
From North’s falling numbers pre-layoffs to Ritual’s rise to the top, here are nine key insights from our subscribers’ responses.
1) CANADIAN TELECOMS RANK CONSISTENTLY LOW
Canada’s Big Three telecoms—Rogers, Bell and Telus—consistently ranked lower than other Canadian public companies. Telus led the group, peaking at 50 points in January 2019. Rogers’ highest score was 29 points in October 2018, while Bell’s hit the same mark in January 2019.
Canadians pay some of the highest telecom prices in the world. In November 2018, The Logic reported that an internal government analysis determined there would be no downside to making Canadian telecoms compete with foreign companies. Doing so would lead to lower prices for internet and cellphone plans, increase overall economic growth and could even boost the stock prices of giants like the Big Three, according to the documents.
Sentiment about the carriers may also have suffered because of allegations of aggressive sales tactics that misled customers and harmed vulnerable populations. In February 2019, the CRTC confirmed those claims. Since then, Ottawa has proposed asking the CRTC to switch its policy to emphasize consumer rights, competition and lower prices. All three telecoms dropped that month.
2) APPLE DROPPED JUST AHEAD OF ITS LOW IPHONE SALES ANNOUNCEMENT
In November 2018, Apple said it would no longer be releasing numbers on how many iPhones, Macs and iPads it sells each quarter, an announcement that suggested its extraordinary numbers of devices purchased would abate.
Apple’s prospects among subscribers fell following the announcement, from 62 points in October 2018 to 33 points in December 2018.
Then, just days after our December survey showed subscribers were losing faith in Apple, the company announced record-low iPhone sales on a January 29 earnings call. However, sentiment rose to 49 per cent that month, which coincided with news that Apple would add revenue streams, such as through App Store purchases and monthly iCloud storage.
3) FACEBOOK IS CONSISTENTLY LOWER THAN OTHER TECH COMPANIES
Subscribers didn’t have a great impression of the social media giant’s prospects to begin with—it started off at a relatively low five points in August 2018. That’s likely due to lasting reputational fallout from its major scandal with Cambridge Analytica, where the consulting firm allegedly harvested user data without consent for political use. However, Facebook’s rating plunged to -27 points in December 2018, a month after a New York Times report showed its executives’ missteps in handling its various PR crises, such as its handling of alleged Russian-affiliated campaigns spreading misinformation ahead of the 2016 presidential election. It was the lowest of any FAANG company.
That’s despite the controversies faced by other members of the FAANG club, like Google’s Project Dragonfly, a censored search engine for China, and Amazon’s Rekognition, a facial recognition tool sold to law enforcement.
4) GOOGLE REMAINS POSITIVE IN SPITE OF CONTROVERSY
Subscribers’ sentiments about Google have been largely positive. The company started at 80 points in August 2018 and, after some small dips, has returned to similar heights. That’s despite controversy over the conduct of sister company Sidewalk Labs in Toronto, including a report from Ontario’s auditor general claiming Waterfront Toronto gave information to Sidewalk Labs ahead of its Request for Proposals. Months of data privacy concerns have culminated in groups like the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and politicians like NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus calling for the project to be halted.
The Alphabet-owned tech giant has faced its own share of public outcry, including a global walkout of employees in November 2018 protesting the company’s sexual harassment policy and work culture. Human-rights groups and employees have also objected to Google’s Project Dragonfly, a censored search engine for China. Google’s rating fell in December 2018 to 44 points.
It rebounded to 68 points two months later after parent company Alphabet posted its fourth-quarter earnings, slightly beating analyst expectations.
5) WEALTHSIMPLE HAS THE MOST CONSISTENTLY POSITIVE REPUTATION
Wealthsimple ranked highest among Canadian private tech firms nearly every month The Logic surveyed.
Wealthsimple is a robo-adviser catering to millennials—CEO Michael Katchen calls it “the world’s most human financial company.” Katchen founded the company in 2014; it’s now majority-owned by Power Corporation, and expanded to the U.S. in 2017. As of October 2018, Wealthsimple had more than US$3 billion in assets under management and 100,000 clients.
The survey was conducted online via a private link sent to subscribers by email. The 33 firms were grouped into three categories: Canadian private tech, Canadian public and public tech. Subscribers were asked to rate how they currently viewed the long-term prospects of each company. They were given six options which were scored as follows: extremely negative (-100 points), somewhat negative (-50 points), neither positive nor negative (zero points), somewhat positive (50 points), extremely positive (100 points) and unfamiliar (0 points). The points were added together and divided by the total number of points possible.
Over the past year, it’s launched several new products and services, including a lost pension finder, a collaboration with TurboTax allowing users to manage their RRSPs and a mutual investment firm with its own in-house advisers.
Wealthsimple’s marketing efforts have been unprecedented for a Canadian startup. The company ran a Super Bowl ad in 2016, and its online magazine regularly features celebrities—including Olympian Adam Rippon, writer Roxane Gay and Maye Musk, mother of Elon—sharing their thoughts on financial literacy. Most recently, the Toronto-based company set up stands in Toronto and Vancouver to distribute copies of its print magazine, which it also had bundled with 80,000 copies of The Globe and Mail.
6) BREATHER AND RITUAL SEE NEWS BUMP
The two Canadian private companies hit relative highs in February, with Ritual—the top of its group that month—coming in at 65 points and Breather at 29 points. Those are increases of about 110 per cent and 81 per cent, respectively, compared to their starting numbers in August 2018.
The spikes follow major recent announcements from both companies. Breather, a Montreal-based on-demand workspace provider, hired Bryan Murphy as its new CEO on January 17. Murphy—a former eBay exec and e-commerce veteran—was brought on to expand the company, which raised US$45 million in its last funding round in June 2018.
Exactly two weeks later, Ritual, a mobile app that allows order-ahead food pickup, announced an international expansion. The Toronto-based company said it will eventually be in more than 40 cities in North America, and aims to more-than triple its restaurant count by the end of 2019. Outside of Canada, Ritual is currently available in London and Sydney.
7) NORTH HAD BEEN FALLING IN SENTIMENT BEFORE ANNOUNCING LAYOFFS
Subscribers had been feeling less positive about North well before it announced a 150-worker layoff in February.
The Waterloo-based company had been hovering around the 30-point mark for months. At the end of October 2018, it rebranded from Thalmic Labs to North and announced its new product: augmented-reality smart glasses called Focals. The update came after months of rumours about what the company was building with US$120 million in venture capital. Despite the announcement, subscribers felt more negative about the company—sentiment plummeted to -2 points in December 2018.
North officially started shipping Focals in January 2019, and subscriber sentiment rose to 15 points that month. The company cut the product’s price-tag by nearly half on February 14. Following the news, our February survey showed a slight dip to 12 points. It’s yet to be seen what subscribers think of North’s prospects in March, following the news of the layoffs and the federal government’s subsequent suspension of its $24-million investment in the firm.
8) ELEMENT AI IS FALLING
Despite Element AI making the Narwhal List and leading its sector in federal lobbying, subscribers are feeling less positive about its prospects. The Montreal-based company peaked at 57 points in September 2018, but the February 2019 survey put it at 21 points.
Founded in 2016, Element AI counts high-profile AI pioneers including Yoshua Bengio among its ranks. The firm raised $135 million from high-profile investors like Microsoft, Intel and Nvidia in 2017. In December 2018, it received $5 million from the federal government to help it scale and expand to new markets, and sentiment briefly lifted to 40 points.
But in spite of the buzz, Element did not release a publicly-available product until very recently. Jean-François Gagné, the company’s CEO, told the Montreal Gazette that its products would launch in the first half of 2019. In February, Element announced a partnership with the National Bank of Canada, using its AI-powered software to improve the bank’s cybersecurity.
9) COINSQUARE’S SWANDIVE
Though Coinsquare began at three per cent in August 2018 and remained relatively low throughout, it plunged into the negatives amid a volatile market and company-wide layoffs.
Coinsquare laid off about 40 employees at the beginning of February, around 27 per cent of its workforce. Several key executives were terminated, including COO Robert Mueller and CFO Ken Tsang. It was the second round of layoffs to hit the company in a year; the first saw the loss of 20 employees in July 2018.
At the time, CEO Cole Diamond noted that other exchanges in the country were having issues, and that the firm’s main competitor, QuadrigaCX, was offline. Coinsquare was in “absolutely no trouble,” he said, attributing the layoffs to the market’s volatility. However, subscribers appeared concerned as sentiment fell to -38 points in February after the news, by far the lowest-rated company in its group over the month.