Canada was the business world’s best-kept secret. Progress and innovation in Canada — especially in artificial intelligence, clean technology and health care — has been monumental for decades. Yet, we stayed humble through those years of innovation. That is, until the country embraced its position as a destination for commercial investment and a world leader in artificial intelligence.
Now, Canada is empowering new companies to compete on the global stage, hosting massive technology industry events featuring the world’s best innovators and attracting international talent to work on world-changing innovations.
Over the past year, I have seen talent begin to flow strongly from south to north. More than half of the high-growth ventures we support in the MaRS ecosystem reported a significant rise in applicants from the United States last year.
The number of skilled foreign workers seeking employment in Canada has skyrocketed in recent years and the country’s stock rises further each time the Trump administration pushes its restrictive immigration agenda.
Scaling firms actively hiring from overseas include: Element AI, a tenant in the MaRS building that has created 250 new jobs in Canada’s artificial intelligence sector after raising $137.5 million in first-round of funding last year; Drop, a consumer rewards platform that MaRS provides free advisory services to, which had 10 employees at the end of 2017 and recently reached a headcount of 30 in the midst of an aggressive hiring spree following a $21 million Series A raise
Eventmobi, another company MaRS provides free advisory service to which creates apps for events and last year grew to nearly 100 staff with plans to add another 45 positions this year. It’s not just talent heading to startups. Students and scientists are also arriving in record numbers. Recently, 24 top academics from around the world were recruited by the Canada 150 Research Chairs Program, which is spending $117 million on seven-year grants for leading researchers.
They include Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, a professor at Brown University known for her work on fake news and Alán Aspuru-Guzik, a Harvard chemistry professor working on quantum computing and clean energy. A fair amount has been written about America’s technology industry brain drain over the past few years, but I’d argue that Canada’s recent brain gain has more to do with what’s working here – like inclusive public policies – than what’s not working elsewhere.
Through my own work with startups, corporates and government partners, I’ve seen clear evidence that talented engineers, tech entrepreneurs and investors are actively choosing to locate or launch in Canada – especially Toronto. Canada’s public and commercial sectors place a premium on growing entrepreneurial communities and connecting them with the best business and academic institutions. Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are growing as hubs for startups.
The expanding reputations of these cities is due to their proximity to key corporate markets in the U.S., local population diversity and prestigious academic institutions. In fact, the greater Toronto region is home to thousands of startups and multinational companies. There is also a strong stream of technical and nontechnical recruits from the University of Toronto, a MaRS partner, and the University of Waterloo welcomed by businesses each year.
Canada’s warmth toward people and startups looking for opportunity has never been more visible – and impactful. The country’s open commercial atmosphere also helps turn ideas into successful businesses and connect people to amplify their work on a global stage. I believe that’s why a growing list of tech giants and enterprises like Google’s Sidewalk Labs, Uber, a tenant in the MaRS building and Microsoft, a MaRS partner, continue to launch and grow significant operations in Canada.
Increased access to venture capital and public funding grants for small businesses have also created a moment of opportunity for startup growth in Canada. The combination of competitive tax rates and business costs and a strong economy form a climate ripe for success. Further, moving your startup to Canada is now easier than ever thanks to government programs designed to welcome promising immigrant-entrepreneurs into a thriving marketplace.
Indeed, Canada is home to some of the world’s best technologists, a welcome business environment and a localized innovation community with global reach. I believe that’s why startup conference Collision has decided to move here from New Orleans in 2019, Amazon shortlisted Toronto for its second headquarters and why the nation provides a compelling environment for young companies to grow.
Canada offers prime real estate to business leaders, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and a diverse set of people looking for opportunity. If the country was an entrepreneur, that would be its elevator pitch on why people and ventures should choose Canada for talent, technology and trade opportunities.