Katherine Barr has become one of the most prominent Canadians in Silicon Valley since moving to the United States 17 years ago. In that time, she never thought of moving back home. That is, until Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election.
"I'm just shocked and appalled," said Ms. Barr, managing director of Wildcat Venture Partners and former co-chair of C100, a Bay Area association of Canadian tech professionals. "America just elected a bully. … My husband and I had for the first time ever a conversation [Tuesday] night about [whether] this would actually be a tipping point to get us back to Canada."
With Canada facing an expected shortage of more than 200,000 information, communications and technology workers by 2020 and Ottawa promising to make it easier for skilled foreigners to migrate to Canada, boosters of the flourishing domestic tech scene hope a Trump victory will lead to a flood of inbound programmers and seasoned executives to help companies here scale up.
"I believe that a Trump presidency may usher in a golden age of Canadian technology," said Mark Organ, chief executive of Influitive, a fast-growing Toronto-based marketing software firm with 150 employees.
"I think we will definitely see more talent coming back to Canada," said Janet Bannister, a former eBay executive who serves as general partner with venture capital firm Real Ventures in Toronto. "It will be primarily Canadians returning to Canada." After the Brexit vote in Britain, she said, five Canadian tech workers she knew there moved home. "I think we'll see even more … people in the Valley who come back because of this."
There was ample evidence of inbound interest Wednesday. American-born Melissa Nightingale, an executive with Toronto online publishing platform Wattpad, said two colleagues in California asked her about moving to Canada. When Toronto immigration lawyer Stephen Green got to the office Wednesday there were four phone messages from Americans asking about moving to Canada.
Vancouver entrepreneur Dennis Pilarinos said a European-based engineer he's been wooing to join his software startup, Buddybuild, rather than move to Silicon Valley had previously indicated "the whole tenor of any decision-making process changes" should Trump win, he said. "I think Vancouver just became considerably more compelling to her," he said.
Toronto-based tech entrepreneur Dan Debow said he'd been contacted by the CEO of a New York fintech company who is considering moving his firm to Canada, and heard from another company with offices in Toronto and San Francisco that might move its U.S. employees to Canada. A third person in the United States asked which top Toronto firms were hiring. "They're actually seriously inquiring. This is a really good opportunity for our country," Mr. Debow said. He immediately e-mailed other Canadian tech leaders, encouraging them to work together to woo high-growth U.S. startups to relocate here.
Others are actively encouraging talent in the United States to come north. On election night, Vancouver immigration specialist Danielle Lovell posted a Facebook ad offering to help U.S. residents move to Canada, targeting people who "liked" both Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and startups. After 12 hours, 45 people had clicked. Another three Americans she knew asked her about moving. "I don't know if [the election] will have people say, 'I have to get out of this country right now.' I think it will help with the conversation," she said. Meanwhile, a partnership including Waterloo-based Communitech and the City of Toronto hoping to woo experienced expatriate Canadians to return recently installed two billboards along Route 101 in Silicon Valley reading "GoNorthCanada.ca."
Almost 50 years after a wave of Americans moved to Canada to avoid the draft, is Canada about to receive an influx of Trump dodgers? Or are people just cranky, tired and reacting emotionally? "It's still super early," Mr. Pilarinos said. "It will be interesting in the next week or so to see if people put their money where their mouth is."
Meanwhile, Steve Mallouk, an Ontario-born partner with Seattle incubator BCG Digital Ventures said that while he and his Singaporean wife will likely apply for Canadian passports for their American-born children after "a bruising and disappointing 24 hours," a Trump victory is unlikely to dislodge them. "For us to pick up and leave and move back to Canada is a nice thing to say over a drink or on Facebook," he said. But "it's not clear to me even if I wanted to move that the type of career opportunities and pay level I aspire to … is available to me in Canada."