When Prime Minister Stephen Harper and MP Gary Goodyear announced the brain drain that has long plagued our country has come to an end, they were on to something.
The signs of opportunity are obvious to those of us working in the technology sector: warehouses buzzing with the sounds of fingers on keyboards, investors flying in from around the world to meet twentysomething executives in blue jeans, dogs wandering from desk to desk, and lighthearted groans of jet lag and time-zone hassles in the office kitchen. These are all signs of success, not just for an industry or a company, but also for a country.
When it comes to next-generation Internet technology, Canada is a hotbed of activity. From high-profile Radian6, to up-and-comers like I Love Rewards, Rypple, and BlueCat Networks, Canada is already well on its way to becoming the next Silicon Valley.
As the 27-year-old founder and CEO of a growing technology firm, I’ve been fortunate to be front and centre in the action. I have learned first hand the many positives of creating a next-generation Internet business with a home base on Canadian soil.
With a long-weekend of reflection behind me, I’d like to share the five uniquely Canadian factors that have helped fuel this success:
It’s no secret that Canada is not known for its robust venture capital community willing to provide seed investments at the size and valuations seen south of the border. What is lesser known is that Canada does boast a top flight community of angel investors who are willing to fill the void and make it possible for Canadian startups to go global. This community has bolstered countless companies in their early growth stages and it has enabled businesses like mine to make the jump to worldwide success.
Amazing and trained people
Canadians are a smart and hard-working bunch. It continues to amaze me that the more time I spend travelling the world the more I see boardrooms that are packed with Canucks. At home, both major and minor startups rely on a smart, talented and globally minded Canadian work force. Top engineering and marketing talent is available right here, providing our country with a leg up in making and marketing great software.
Operating costs and efficiencies
Canada provides a lower-cost operating model than New York, London, or San Francisco. It’s easier for a growing Canadian business to find high-quality staff at a manageable cost, and office space is 50-per-cent cheaper. Major centres such as Toronto or Vancouver also provide direct flights to almost any customer in the world, providing critical links to larger markets.
Although we love to give them a hard time, banks in Canada are unique. Access to operating lines of credit and loans are fuelling the country’s success. Startups get access to credit in Canada that they couldn’t get internationally and this makes a huge difference. Our banks play a key role in funding upstart technology companies and many continue to create special programs to make the growth process even easier. Canada’s Business Development Bank (BDC) is a great example of a government program that works. Countless BDC credit and venture options open the doors to ideas and companies that, with the right business plans, are supported to help drive Canadian growth.
SR&ED, ITC and other government programs provide tax-credits for investment in Canada-based intellectual property. They are great examples of tax programs that get it right – creating jobs and driving increased Canadian investment to fuel our growing technology and media economy. This continues to strengthen the financial advantage Canadian firms have over their international competitors.
All these advantages are getting noticed south of the border and around the world. Venture capital investors have realized there is more to Canada than snow and they are casting their lines northward. University graduates no longer dream en masse of migrating south, or overseas, to gain experience working for a global company. Growth prospects for Canadian technology companies are looking better by the day.
Of course, there is still the omnipresent allure of California’s famous high-tech valley. But when it comes to building a great technology company, the odds of success are better here at home than almost anywhere else in the world.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Michael Scissons is the founder and CEO of Syncapse Corp. , one of Canada’s fastest-growing social media software companies.
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