For five years, Stanislav Korsei and Oleksandr Zadorozhnyi ran a company together in Ukraine, providing telephone-based solutions to other businesses. But the entrepreneurs wanted to run an international business, and the political turmoil in the country made that virtually impossible, Mr. Korsei said.
"We came to the conclusion that we need to look for a better business environment, and this is why we came here," said Mr. Korsei, who now lives in Vancouver along with Mr. Zadorozhnyi and both of their families.
"We decided to try to build something bigger."
Mr. Korsei and Mr. Zadorozhnyi are the first successful applicants for a new Canadian program designed to speed up the process of securing permanent residency for foreign entrepreneurs.
They have been in Vancouver since last fall, developing their startup, Zeetl Inc., an application that helps companies monitor their feedback on social media for customer complaints.
The pair arrived on business visas after securing financial backing from Vancouver-based accelerator GrowLab Ventures Inc. Zeetle received $30,000, according to GrowLab.
On Wednesday, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced that Mr. Korsei and Mr. Zadorozhnyi have been accepted to the new Start-up Visa Program, allowing the young entrepreneurs and their families to become permanent residents.
They say the Start-up Visa Program played an important role in bringing them to Canada.
"Things are improving [in Ukraine] right now with the new President and the new government, but it's a long way to go, and business is quite fast-moving, so we cannot wait to have that opportunity," Mr. Korsei said.
"We want to do business in a stable country where we can rely on the ports and the banking system working correctly."
Luring innovative, talented and ambitious small-business owners is the aim of the new visa program, Mr. Alexander told reporters at GrowLab's office in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday.
By making the immigration system more flexible and responsive to emerging labour market needs, the government is hoping to spur economic growth and create more jobs for Canadians.
Mr. Alexander rattled off several reasons Canada is an attractive destination for startups: a stable business environment, a reliable financial sector and relatively low taxes.
Canada also has a rich talent pool across many sectors and fields.
The program was launched on April 1, 2013.
To be approved for the program, businesses must secure financial backing from venture capital firms, angel investors or business incubators to ensure their startups have a chance of succeeding.
"It's not up to government to identify the best ideas of the future, the ideas that are going to transform whole sectors, make our lives easier and underpin our prosperity for years to come," Mr. Alexander said.
"That is the job of the private sector, of venture capital markets, of accelerators with the expertise to do these things."
The co-founders of Zeetl say their application is still in the development phase, but they have already secured a partnership with a Vancouver-based client.
Meanwhile, they are enjoying British Columbia, Mr. Korsei said.
"It is really exciting for us to live in such a beautiful place."
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