Tech trends to watch in 2022

technology
Editor's Note

This article is sponsored by Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall

Ottawa recently returned to prominence in the Canadian venture capital scene, thanks in part to major funding rounds from Rewind, Fullscript and others. But along with an upswing in VC, what are some other technology trends to watch as we head into the new year – and what’s driving them?

Tech momentum in the foreseeable future will largely be governed by two major themes, says Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall’s Conor J. Cronin: COVID-19 and climate change. That’s why the technology, private equity and mergers & acquisitions (M&A) expert says prospects are so bright for clean technology companies in Ottawa and the rest of the country.

Verticals to watch: Cleantech, DaaS, cybersecurity, and more

Several factors have combined to make cleantech an obvious growth industry heading into 2022, Cronin says, including: 

  • The Glasgow Climate Pact and proposed aid for developing countries
  • A climate change-focused Liberal government that appears committed to supporting innovations such as low-carbon concrete
  • Significant planned U.S. spending on green infrastructure

Data-as-a-service (DaaS) and other secure collaboration tools for remote and hybrid workforces are similarly well-positioned, he says, in light of the recent work-from-home revolution. That’s doubly true in a town like Ottawa, where the federal government’s long-term workplace plans are still very much unknown.

And recent high-profile attacks on critical infrastructure such as pipelines, government agencies, and hospital systems mean cybersecurity should be top-of-mind for heads of organizations, big and small. Increased scrutiny around network infrastructure and security will likely mean increased budgets – including beefed-up training so employees can better recognize increasingly sophisticated (and sometimes shockingly unsophisticated) cyberattacks. 

Additional verticals to watch, says Cronin, are financial technology (fintech) and cannabis – especially considering recent U.S. banking reforms, which should make it easier for banks to work with cannabis companies.

Mergers and acquisitions

M&A activity will likely ramp up in early 2022, Cronin says, with local firms such as Calian openly musing about expanding its M&A efforts and other local companies adding M&A experience to their leadership teams. 

On the flip side, though, corporate debt in Canada is high. Companies who took on a substantial amount of additional debt because of the pandemic or other reasons likely won’t be in a position to expand via acquisitions. Refinancing may be an option, but it’s an additional step to getting a potential deal done that may make investors and acquisition targets think twice.  

Many technology companies, however, have funds to spend – and conditions could be ripe as travel picks back up and executives are able to book more in-person meetings.

VC and private equity

The latter few months of 2021 were strong for VC investment in Ottawa, and Cronin doesn’t see that changing soon. “It could be big,” he says. “There’s loads of cash out there, interest rates are low, and the stock market is riding high. Investors may have no choice but to look to private equity for high-growth investments.”

Ottawa also has a notable crop of young former executives and founders who have now gone on to start their second or third successful businesses, which can be an important consideration for technology investors evaluating potential targets. 

Talent and recruiting

One big roadblock to the Ottawa technology scene’s growth, says Cronin, is the ongoing talent shortage – an issue worsened by the pandemic and the intense competition large-scale remote work has fostered. “It’s not just Ottawa firms looking for talent elsewhere,” he explains, “it’s also all the other firms who can attract Ottawa’s talent.” 

Ottawa-based talent who may have worked locally as a matter of course can now take a job in the U.S., for example, without the risk and expense of moving. And rising housing costs in Ottawa mean it’s not as attractive as it once was to high-tech workers from cities such as Toronto and Vancouver.

What can local companies do to take advantage?

Cronin says local technology firms can capitalize on these trends in three main ways: Keep an eye on government spending priorities, get out there and attract investment, and hire the best people possible so you’re ready to scale quickly when it’s go-time. 

“Especially for a technology company, success is being in the right place at the right time,” he says. “You’ve got to be fairly flexible to give yourself the best chance of doing that.”