From PM to VC: Harper’s Move is a Win for Canadian Tech

The recent news of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to join San Francisco-based 8VC is good news for the Canadian tech industry.

Touted as the “Silicon Valley of the North,” the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor has long been the focus of the Canadian tech ecosystem in terms of positive signs of development within the industry. However, with strong tech communities emerging in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Montreal, the Canadian tech industry is set to establish itself as an up-and-coming player in the global knowledge-based economy.

Injecting high-profile Canadian leadership into Silicon Valley can only serve to further establish Canada’s reputation in tech. Harper, a long-standing champion of free trade and free markets, brings to Silicon Valley a unique understanding of the Canadian landscape and a history of advocacy pertaining to investment in the Canadian market. This is already evident based on the excitement of 8VC to work with Harper.

“We’re thrilled to have former Prime Minister Stephen Harper join our team at 8VC. Mr. Harper played a key role in guiding Canada’s ascent as a global leader in technology innovation, and we’ve been impressed by the tremendous amount of entrepreneurial and technical talent in the Canadian ecosystem, “ says Joe Lonsdale, General Partner at 8VC.

“We’re excited to work together and learn from Mr. Harper’s extensive experience, and to see his continued leadership applied to help bring innovation to some of the world’s largest industries.”

By promoting Canadian markets in Silicon Valley directly, Harper can continue to increase the appeal of Canadian techcompanies to both innovators and venture capitalists alike, effectively sending more entrepreneurs and investors north to look for talent and investment opportunities respectively, a role Harper looks forward to executing throughout his work with 8VC.

“As Prime Minister of Canada I had the privilege of seeing Canada’s tech sector evolve into a global presence. Today, I’m very excited to be embarking on this journey with Joe [Lonsdale] and 8VC in Silicon Valley. Canada and the United States have long been at the forefront of technological development for the betterment of the world,” says Harper.

“I am more eager than ever to invest my energy in the mentorship and empowerment of a new generation of leaders — those tackling some of the most complex challenges of our time.”

This development is good news for our tech sector and our domestic economy as a whole. The Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s State of Canada’s Tech Sector, 2016 found that the tech sector generated $117 billion of Canada’s approximately $1.5 trillion GDP in 2015 alone. The report also notes that Canada’s tech sector saw steady growth from 2007-2015, and of the 71,000 tech sector firms operating in 2015, more than two-thirds of those companies were considered small businesses.

Harper’s latest move means that he has the opportunity to continue his support for small businesses and a prosperous Canadian economy. By drawing attention and investments to a steadily growing industry in Canada, Harper’s move will create well-paying jobs and produce outputs that improve the lives of Canadians every day.

Support for entrepreneurship in Canada is alive and well.

According to this year’s report from the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association, venture capital investments in Canada saw a 41% year over year increase in 2016, coming in at a total of $3.2 billion, with early stage companies receiving just over half of the total investment at $1.6 billion (up 29%). However, what this newly announced partnership between Harper and 8VC establishes is an advocate for the Canadian market in a city swimming with venture capital funding and investors looking for the next big IPO or acquisition. This partnership potentially means more funding opportunities for the next big innovation to come out of Canada and more jobs for our world-class computer science engineers.

Canada is a land of innovation. From insulin and the telephone, to Hootsuite and Shopify, Canada is the birthplace of many innovations that we take for granted every day. This latest partnership between Harper and 8VC will help to ensure the advancement of Canada’s tech industry while supporting the world-class innovations that the world has come to expect from us.

Madison Cox is a former strategic communications advisor to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and is currently the Vice President of Durrell Communications, a tech PR agency based in Kitchener-Waterloo.