Canada tech players reap benefits as export picture brightens

Tue Sep 6, 2016 1:00am EDT
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By Fergal Smith

TORONTO, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Smaller Canadian technology companies making products like robotics, drones and high-tech thermostats are proving to be some of the biggest winners as the country's recently struggling non-commodity export sector shows signs of revival.

Data released on Friday showed Canada's trade deficit in July unexpectedly shrank on stronger non-energy exports, which had struggled for months. The Bank of Canada sees the sector as crucial to helping revive an economy hit by low oil prices.

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz has admitted to being puzzled by disappointing export data, given a soft currency and improving U.S. demand.

But executives with several export-oriented technology companies said both factors are helping drive demand for their products, and prospects for sales abroad are better than what many people believe.

"Despite what you read, the economy is incredibly strong," said Stuart Lombard, founder and chief executive of Ecobee, a maker of Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats that does 90 percent of its business outside of Canada.

"We are growing our revenue at 100 percent year-over-year... and I would say our outlook is only positive."

His optimism is shared by several makers of innovative products aimed mainly at foreign buyers. They note Canada's weak dollar has helped keep labor costs low and prices competitive.

"We are roughly doubling every year in sales," said Bryan Webb, chief financial and operating officer and co-founder of Clearpath Robotics, which develops self-driving vehicles for industry. He estimates that 60 percent of his sales are to the United States.   Continued...