Waterloo’s Future is Bright, Even if RIM’s Isn’t

When Research In Motion exploded into a global success in the early 2000s, the company—which became the largest of Canada’s technology sector—spurred Waterloo’s development, influencing it to become the entrepreneurial gold rush it is today.

But as RIM falls from grace, Canadians worry that the city of Waterloo will crumble alongside it. This isn’t likely going to be the case.

RIM’s success was profound enough and sustained long enough that its positive effects on Waterloo should prove permanent. According to an infographic by local startup Sortable, there are more than 850 tech firms and 550 tech startups within the city’s metro area today, with well over 500 new companies having been started in the past three years. 

Reinforcing these numbers is Ian Klugman, the CEO of Communitech—a local startup incubator that RIM helped fund—who told The Verge recently that the Waterloo region had about 50 companies 15 years ago and today has over 1,000.

Now 30,000 people work at tech firms in the region of Waterloo, which is described as the “second best performing economy in Canada,” generating $25 billion in revenue from the tech sector and earning patents at three times the national per capita average. 

Further, Waterloo is both one of our country’s fastest growing populations—and also the third youngest. As well, it’s home to numerous startup incubators and accelerators, including Velocity, Hyperdrive, and the Accelerator Centre.

And that’s not to mention the University of Waterloo, which was recently named Canada’s top engineering school and has been described as the country’s “most innovative university.” No wonder the city was recognized as “the world’s top intelligent community” in 2007.

Ian affirms that, on average, one local startup is founded every day. So if RIM collapsed tomorrow, it wouldn’t hurt Waterloo, even though 8,000 employees work there today. In fact, it may even prove a boon to the region.

Infographic: Sortable