In Enterprise Transformation Category, Three Venerable Titans Showcase Ability to Adapt

Large corporations aren’t always associated with innovation. However, more traditional enterprise organizations are launching initiatives to enhance their agility and promote a “startup mentality.”

And the three finalists in the Enterprise Transformation category in this year’s Canadian Startup Awards epitomize the shift toward making big changes.

This is the first year that enterprise companies are also being recognized for transforming the way they do business or who they do business with, with Sonnet, Scotiabank, and Canadian Tire competing for the award.

And here is how these big companies are making big changes.


But Sonnet, one of Canada’s leading direct insurance providers, is making waves with its unique solutions for customers looking to protect their assets.

Essentially, Sonnet is the only direct-to-consumer insurance in Canada that is almost entirely a self-service model. While you can get quotes from other providers online, you still often have to wrangle a customer service representative to sign up for the policy. But Sonnet’s wholly online model helps eliminate the middleman from the purchasing experience.

“Sonnet uses a deeper and broader range of real-time third-party data sources than any other competitor in Canada to provide personalized, detailed quotes to customers after answering just a handful of questions,” says Stephen Newport, Sonnet’s vice president of Digital Customer Experience. “We’re rewriting underwriting, from clear website language to simple policy documents, working closely with Canadian regulators to provide insurance information that is clear so our customers understand what they are purchasing and why.”

The organization has also endeavored to get rid of unnecessary service fees, and is eliminating typical insurance jargon so that customers can find and purchase the best policy for their needs. And the organization takes great pride in being nominated as one of the first enterprise companies to be recognized in the Canadian Startup Awards.

“We built Sonnet with sophisticated IT infrastructure, advanced third party analytics, and a commitment to an exceptional customer experience—but above all with passion,” says Alice Keung, SVP and Chief Information Officer. “We believe we’ve created an insurance company Canadians can actually like. To have the recognition of our peers and industry for this innovation gives us such a sense of pride and accomplishment.”

Canadian Tire

While this 95-year-old retail chain stocks everything from snow shovels to blenders, it’s also embracing the fast-paced world of digital marketing.

For example, Canadian Tire has spent a fair amount of resources beefing up their Facebook ads, including creating a series of 50 seven-second silent videos to get the attention of avid social users, according to Canadian Business. And the results further proved that their focus on digital marketing was not in vain — the sell-through rate on the micro-ads was 50 per cent higher than more typical social ads.

These Three Young Startups Show Incredible Promise

While Canadian Tire was a little late to the click-and-bricks game, the retailer is quickly making up for lost time. Back in 2014, the retailer launched a digital version of its well-known loyalty program (to eliminate all that Canadian Tire cash floating around wallets and the bottom of purses).

The company has also opened two separate lab spaces to focus on digital innovation as well.

“Becoming a world leader in digitizing the retail experience is a top priority for the Company,” said Michael Medline, President and CEO, Canadian Tire Corporation, to Techvibes after opening their Digital Garage in Kitchener-Waterloo.


As one of Canada’s big five banks, you might not think of Scotiabank as a breeding ground for digital transformation. But that was precisely their focus in 2016.

In addition to streamlining some internal processes to continue to make its services more mobile friendly, Scotiabank also launched a number of projects to make the organization more digital centric. Back in 2015, the bank announced the insemination of its Digital Factory, which is essentially a digital-focused startup operating within the bank.

Scotiabank has also partnered with major academic institutions (think Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business and the Rotman School of Management at the Univeristy of Toronto) to build a number of embedded labs to promote digital-focused banking, emerging technologies, and research into design thinking.

But they haven’t stopped there—they continued to partner with smaller FinTech organizations like Kabbage, which offers small business loans quickly to customers in Canada and Mexico. It also invested in a venture capital fund developed by Georgian Partners, with a focus on security first, AI, and messaging, further proving that a big bank can lead the way when it comes to emerging digital technology.

Choose Your Favourite

Which of these deserving young companies deserve to win in the Enterprise Transformation category? Make sure you vote for your favourites before Feb. 19 at midnight to have your say in which startups should win in their respective categories.

The winners will be announced at a live gala on March 2nd at Steamwhistle Brewery in Toronto.

A Closer Look at the Canadian Startup Awards’ Technology Innovation Finalists