If you’re in the Canadian tech scene, you’ve heard it all before: we’re too polite; our companies aren’t innovative; our investors don’t understand anything that isn’t resource-based; we must build the next Silicon Valley North.
I call bullshit. Sure, running a technology company in Canada has challenges, but the same applies south of the border. In fact, being a tech startup in Canada is better.
1. Canadians take a measured approach. While this makes our political satire less entertaining, (think 22 minutes vs. The Daily Show), it strengthens our business ecosystem. Strict banking and housing policies meant we didn’t overleverage or take as much of a recessionary hit.
Further, our startup visa program is lightyears ahead of US immigration policy. And grant and rebate programs like SRED and IRAP level the playing field, much like our healthcare act. These factors and more rank us in the top five places in the world to start a business, according to the EY G20 Entrepreneurship Barometer 2013: Canada.
2. We seriously foster innovation. We’re a smallish nation of 35 million people, and our startup community boasts some of the most helpful. Check out what GrowLabs, FounderFuel and Extreme Startups have done to help. Startup Edmonton’s FlightPath Ventures and Startup Calgary’s Next Program are also doing great things to help budding innovators.
There’s more: the C100 is an organization of tech executives based in the Valley, whose purpose is help Canadian tech companies. The A100 does the same for Alberta tech. Debbie Landa’s Grow Conference in Vancouver, and Accelerate conferences throughout Canada are amazing gathering points for investors and entrepreneurs.
3. We are sowing seeds for generations of success. All of the points above support my last point. Our measured governmental policies and the passionate support we show in growing startups ensure that we are building for the long-term.
We’re already one of the most educated countries in the world, with more than 50 percent being college-educated. With a greater focus on sciences and technology education as we enter the next generation we can hire more great talent from Canada.
Great organizations like Shopify, Hootsuite, and Bioware have leveraged our labour force to serve a global market from Canada. Our success will grow with each cycle.
Today’s young startup wunderkinds become tomorrow’s older, wiser advisors. As successful companies mature, we’ll see more experienced developers, managers and consultants emerge and wade back in to aid the next generation. Their knowledge, and typically, capital, flow into the next generation of companies.
My latest startup has benefited from all of this. Within six months, we’ve gathered a group of Canadian cofounders, each of them with exits under their belts. Hiring hasn’t been easy, but we’ve been able to convince a super-talented group of people to take pay cuts to become part of Dissolve’s mission.
It won’t be a walk in the park—if it were, everyone would do it. There’s huge risk involved in any tech venture. But with help from the government, the economy, a network of ultra-connected startup people throughout North America and a smart workforce, I strongly believe in the future of the Canadian tech scene.