Canada’s rich history of technical innovation dates back to the 1970s, when Nortel Communications began shifting its focus to digital technologies, and later gave way to Bell Canada Enterprise after multiple iterations of telecom deregulation. Research in Motion, which was founded in 1984, also had a significant impact on cellular phone technology with its messaging service and BlackBerry devices.
Let’s fast forward to today. Canada is pushing the launch of tech startups across the country. Toronto is the home to a majority of the country’s tech investment. Toronto-based OMERS
Ventures funded some of the country’s biggest success stories, with its backing of Shopify and Hootsuite, and is credited with helping to revive Canada’s technology sector. Startups can also gain financial support from 500 Startup’s Canadian fund, the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Program and the Industrial Research Assistance Program.
Funding is important, but it’s also crucial to provide advisory support to startups. Tech startups need proper guidance to face the upcoming challenges of enhancing their value chain to their target audience. They also need help scaling their business models. This type of support infrastructure is becoming more accessible through the MaRS Discovery District, Communitech, and 500 Startups, all of which are focused on helping launch new startups.
In a past conversation I had with my Carnegie Mellon University alum David Crow at Venture for Canada, we agreed that Canada is positioned to continue driving technology innovation given its talent pool, funding, and support structure currently in place.
I see this in the job applications that come in on a daily basis at my current startup, AskforTask. When I speak with Silicon Valley-based talent, there is a genuine desire to make the move across the northern border, in part because talent is recognizing that Canada is a destination technology hub. In the words of one of the candidates – “It’s the new Wild West for tech….or better yet the ‘Wild North.’ ”
That’s pretty significant. The notion of a tech powerhouse north of the Canada-U.S. border may not have been plausible a decade ago. But, since the recent presidential election, the political landscape has shifted dramatically. The best and brightest tech talent is seeing that Canada has opened the doors to new growth in the tech sector thanks to its support of startups, and is poised to be Silicon Valley 2.0.