As the next generation of tech companies are launched, more Canadians are moving back to the country’s startup hubs – currently there are about 350,000 Canadians living in Silicon Valley – to launch their own projects.
Private investors as well as government officials are quickly moving to capitalize on the explosive potential of the country’s expanding tech startup sector.
Out of recognition of the economic and development advantages that successful startups bring, Her Majesty’s Government has even introduced the Start-Up Visa. If an entrepreneur secures backing from a Canadian organization, or already has some seed money from investors, he or she may then be eligible for permanent residence. This is just one of the initiatives moving more startups to Canadian soil.
The following cities represent the top-10 best places to launch a tech startup in Canada:
population 2.62 million – metro 5.58 million
2012 brought Toronto into the world spotlight when Startup Genome, a non-profit industry researcher, published its list of the top cities in the world to launch a tech startup. Toronto took fourth place, outranking cities like Los Angeles, Seattle, and Boston.
In many respects Toronto’s well-founded showing was responsible for placing Canada on the worldwide tech startup map. Today there are literally hundreds of different tech startups making their mark on Toronto. Local universities and the economic power of Toronto also make it a good place for tech startups, allowing fresh as well as experienced talent to be relatively easy to come by.
Those new to Toronto’s startup scene can check out:
- Mentor Mondays at OMERS Ventures – a networking event for tech startup enthusiasts
- Semi-regular speaking and mentoring events
- Regular developer and coding events
- Annual events like TiE Quest, Canadian Innovation eXchange, and Android TO
population 603,502 – metro 2.31 million
Ranking ninth in the world as the best city for tech startups by a recent Startup Genome survey, Vancouver – aka Silicon Valley North – has recently been making strides to be number one in Canada.
City and local business leaders have been establishing Vancouver’s tech startup incubator resources, providing opportunities and networking for funding as well as space to be creative. Launch Academy is a case in point: a 12,000 square-foot office on Hastings Street that provides mentoring, education, resources, and workspace. This is just one of the city’s incubators, which boasts of hosting 225 different startups that have currently raised more than $35 million in funding.
Important Vancouver events that take place on a regular basis include:
- Vancouver Scala Meetup
- Vancouver iDevelopers
- GROWConf – an annual event that attracts investors and tech startups
- Startup Weekend Vancouver
Regional Municipality of Waterloo
The Kitchener, Cambridge, and Waterloo area is currently booming for tech startups. So much so that a film team led by one of the people behind American Idol is making a documentary about the area, appropriately titled Startup Community.
While tech startups are the latest success story for the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, they are by no means the only ones. BlackBerry Limited, the company behind its namesake breakthrough smartphone, still calls Waterloo its home, while VeloCity is also nearby. The University of Waterloo has been graduating tech talent for years while names like Apple, Facebook, and Google also have offices in the area.
Communitech is an example of just one of the tech incubators operating in the Waterloo area that can provide support and resources for new startups.
population 1.65 million – metro 4.03 million
Ranked among the top cities in the world as a host for tech startups, Montreal’s tech startup scene continues to grow and develop. In addition to an increasing number of incubators and private funding opportunities, professional organizations like the Regroupement des Jeunes Chambres de Commerce du Quebec and the Fondation de l’Entrepreneurship are also getting behind the metropolitan area’s startup expansion.
On the first Tuesday of every month, Montreal New Tech organizes a startup presentation of around five new companies to an audience made up of potential investors and talent. This is just one of the starting places where innovation can find experienced mentors as well as underwriters in Montreal. Other resources and events in the city include:
- Montreal Startup Guide
- International Startup Festival
- Startup Grind Montreal
population 883,391 – metro 1.24 million
A recent article in the Financial Post spoke directly about the ‘quiet boom’ that is currently driving Ottawa’s tech sector: startups. The piece cites the significant fact that over the past four years the number of tech companies in Ottawa has nearly doubled to 1,800.
There are several important factors that make Ottawa one of the nation’s leaders in tech startups:
- Its status as a large city that is also in relatively close proximity to Toronto, the nation’s leader in tech startups
- Its status as the capital, combined with its population size and number of experienced professionals who are already in the area – startups have a relatively easy time finding fresh and innovative ideas
- Seed and investor funding is relatively easy to come by
- Tech startups can find great resources in Ottawa, such as incubators and local events like Tech Tuesdays and Startup Weekends
population 1.10 million – 1.21 million
Calgary is the focal regional hotspot for tech startups. Investors, talent, and supportive infrastructure like incubators call the city home or make regular trips there to attend many of its relevant events.
Startup Weekend Calgary is one such event, which takes startups through a light-speed development contest over the course of a weekend. Also included in this event are plenty of networking opportunities where companies exchange ideas with each other as well as with investors in attendance. The weekend officially culminates with the Transformational Banking prize, while the connections made between attendees is often of even greater significance.
Startup Calgary is another significant resource in the city, which coordinates more than 80 events each year and maintains relationships with partners like Innovate Calgary, Alberta Enterprise, Startup Canada, and Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures.
Regional Municipality of Halton
Driven primarily by the city of Burlington, the Regional Municipality of Halton is worth mentioning separately from Toronto because it is steadily becoming a center for tech startups in its own right. Silicon Halton, a local tech startup resource, is a case and point of this phenomenon. With its inception in 2009, that year the organization sponsored two events. By 2012 it counted a membership of 800 and was supporting 80 events.
Silicon Halton is also far from the only resource in the area. Thanks to its close proximity to the number one tech startup city in the nation, the Halton area has relatively easy access to talent, experienced developers, and investment. Area accelerators and incubators help to connect new startups with the necessary resources for success.
population 877,926 – metro 1.16 million
As the fifth largest city in the nation and home of the University of Alberta, Edmonton has all the necessary resources to be a significant place for tech startups.
Included in the city’s infrastructure are resources like Tec Edmonton, an incubator whose clients have a first-year success rate of 96 percent. A joint venture project between the city and the University of Alberta, this organization boasts of being number-one in its field nationally. Startups who affiliate themselves with this organization can have access to:
- Executives in residence
- Tech professionals who specialize in product commercialization and copyright
- Networking opportunities with more than 100 clients
- Access to underwriters and investors – Tec clients have raised more than $165 million in capital over the past three years
- Additional municipal as well as academic resources
population 663,617 – metro 730,018
Winnipeg is home to a burgeoning tech startup ecosystem. Events like Vision to Venture attract business professionals, while organizations like the Manitoba Technology Accelerator support startups that are bringing innovative new ideas to market. These types of resources combined with talent attracted by the University of Manitoba and a city that already hosts plenty of established professionals makes Winnipeg a great place for tech startups.
Sponsored by the university, Vision to Venture debuted last year and is likely to become an annual event, with this year’s date already set. This brings together Winnipeg’s leading tech entrepreneurs with the top regional and national product developers and scientists to create new business relationships.
The Manitoba Technology Accelerator is the province’s only federally-funded tech incubator, committed to bringing new ideas to the marketplace and providing valuable as well as essential resources like:
- Mentoring and coaching
- Infrastructure support
- Financial assistance
- Investment resources
population 516,622 – metro 765,706
Local investors, the municipal government, young talent, and experienced professionals join together to make Quebec City one of the country’s best cities for tech startups. Evidence of the city’s infrastructure development in this field is no further than the Saint-Roch district, home to Le Camp.
With partners including the Quebec International Economic Development, the Government of Canada, and the City of Quebec, Le Camp describes itself as, “the anchor point for Quebec City’s entrepreneurial community.” Services offered by this incubator include:
- Training and coaching programs to test business models
- Acceleration program for companies that have already secured funding
- Marketing and business growth support programs
- Fully-equipped workspace rentals
- Information about local events, meetings, and activities
The founding of Le Camp has increased the city’s tech startup community prominence throughout the nation. More than ever, investors are making their way past Montreal to come find out more about Quebec City’s growing influence on this field.