If you’ve ever wondered what Slack, Shopify, and Hootsuite have in common then it’s the fact that they were all founded in Canada.
The country’s conservative attitude towards doing business often means it isn’t able to grab headlines in the same vein as the United States, but that significantly downplays its contribution towards global tech innovation.
If you’re a tech worker looking to move to Canada from the United States, India, Dubai, or elsewhere in the world, then there’s no time like the present.
A widely-shared story last month shed light on Toronto’s rapid emergence as a technology hub, at par with other North American cities like San Francisco, Washington D.C., and New York. The same report cited Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, with the highest ratio of tech workers as a percentage of the overall labor force, outstripping both the Bay Area and Seattle. The city hosts 1,700 technology companies that employ more than 70,000 workers with the sector now a larger contributor to the economy than accounting and legal.
For context, Canada’s population is only about 37 million. That’s a far distance behind the US, which comes in at almost 330 million. This means Canadian startups have a natural addressable market that’s about 1/10th the size of America, yet have managed to carve out a substantial niche for themselves. The country’s liberal immigration policies, friendly and diverse culture, and generous government assistance for emergent companies are all factors behind the steady growth.
And if you’re a technology worker in Canada, then your skills are definitely in demand. A 2017 report revealed that advertised salaries in the sector were a colossal 45% above the Canadian national average. The total number of vacancies in technology fields was over 18,000 with Ontario grabbing the largest share, at 17% followed closely by Vancouver and Montreal, with 8% and 6% respectively. These figures have undoubtedly gone up since.
Canadian companies have a long and distinguished history of solving global problems using technology and this trend is likely to continue.
One of the earliest purveyors of Canadian tech was communications conglomerate Nortel, worth billions of dollars at its peak and responsible for putting the country on the global technology map. Other luminaries include Research In Motion, popularly known as Blackberry. The company may have faded into obscurity but it’s undoubtedly left an indelible impact on the rapid growth of consumer technology products.
The government of Canada is an enthusiastic supporter of venture capital funds and has committed to co-invest hundreds of millions of dollars in private sector outlays. Toronto landmarks like the Creative Destruction Labs, MaRS Discovery District, and Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone all serve as hubs for innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity. And graduates from the University of Waterloo, popularly known as Canada’s MIT, have gone on to start companies like KiK, Instacart, and Wish. Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum, was a student there, too.
In fact, entrepreneurship in Canada is so well-entrenched that some studies maintain that the country is second only to the U.S. in terms of entrepreneurial activity. It estimates that 13% of the working population identify as early-stage entrepreneurs, beating most other G7 countries and at par with Australia.
Even venture capital activity, considered to be a traditionally weak area of the Canadian technology landscape, is witnessing a continuous uptick.
Money flowing into early-stage companies nearly doubled between 2014 to 2017 to settle at US$3.3 billion. Some of the largest funding rounds last year were DWave’s $200 million series E, PointClickCare’s $111 million series C, and ElementAI’s $102 million series A. Meanwhile, AngelList has over 14,000 active startups in Canada listed on its network.
Both seed-stage funding and Canadian tech exits have steadily grown over the same period, too.
The fastest way to move to Canada is to apply for the merit-based Express Entry program. This way, employers don’t need to sponsor your visa and you’ll find a job quicker.
To bolster its workforce, Canada has already accepted more than 800,000 immigrants in the past five years. Current immigration levels stand at 360,000 per year, reflecting a continuous need for skilled workers to fill gaps in the country’s labor force. Tech jobs specifically are in high-demand; some projections say there will be more than 182,000 vacancies by 2019 with mobile, cloud services, apps, analytics, social media, and the Internet of Things cited to be the fastest growing sectors.
Aspiring entrepreneurs can also move to Canada under the Startup Visa program. This allows business owners looking to benefit from Canadian talent and government assistance move there, provided they meet certain capitalization requirements and commit to hiring a specific number of workers.
To sum it up, Canada is an excellent destination for skilled workers looking to secure their long-term futures and remain in North America where network effects around tech are arguably the highest across the world. The United States’ unfriendly attitude towards immigration isn’t likely to subside anytime soon. With plummeting chances of extensions in H1-B visas and eventual conversions to Green Cards, there’s never been a better time to look towards Canada for the next step in your career.