Startup ecosystem growing in Vancouver

By Sam Brake Guia May 9, 2019

They say there is a silver lining in every situation, and while Trump’s immigration approach has been bad for America, it has proven to be a fortuitous gift for Canada. A recent Washington Post article claims that Trump’s immigration policy has made Canada a more appealing option for entrepreneurs.

In 2017, TechCrunch highlighted Canada as North America’s up and coming startup center. And when you look at the country’s major hubs it is not without merit.

According to a recent article in The Next Web, Toronto has solidified its reputation as a global center for AI, thanks to a $5 million investment by Google into the Vector Institute last year and an aligned buy-in from the city’s academic, government and corporate sectors.

The startup ecosystem of Toronto is undeniably impressive; however, alongside the capital many major cities are blossoming as centers of technology and entrepreneurship. For example, according to Forbes, Edmonton and Montreal have become centers of AI excellence alongside Toronto, with strong support from the government.

But there is another city which really stands out in Canada.

According to Ramin Behzadi, a partner of 7 Gate Ventures, a venture capital firm based in Vancouver, Canada, “With easy access to the US and Chinese market and close proximity to Seattle and San Francisco, Vancouver has also ranked 7th in market reach, continually luring businesses for its strategic location. It woos entrepreneurs too for its startup costs, earning the distinction as the cheapest place in North America to launch a tech company.”

Investor Ramin Behzadi

“But there’s more to the story. There are three factors contributing to the tech scene’s ascent. First of all, there is an exceptional pool of tech talent. Secondly, there is consistent government support. And lastly, Vancouver showcases a symbiotic system.  Leftover expertise and capital following acquisitions are frequently recycled back into local ventures,” the investor added.

Vancouver has proven to be a breeding ground for top tech and entrepreneurial talent. Not only is it located directly above Silicon Valley, but it also holds some of the country’s top universities such as the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, and the University of Victoria.

The Washington Post recently reported that “Trump’s immigration policy has foreign tech talent looking north of the border.” The more rigid restrictions around H-1B visas for skilled foreign workers have meant that many of the best and brightest – those that might have gone to Silicon Valley or other big US hubs – are looking to Canada.

British Columbia, and Vancouver in particular, have rolled out the welcome mat. The government has initiatives to expedite visas and private organizations like True North are working to bring workers here.

Canada’s government already offers support in the form of federal funding options such as the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) and the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF). The federal government is offering these and other initiatives to provide funding – and the city of Vancouver supplements that with a $100 million tech fund.

Consistent government support and an ever-deepening talent pool are enough to convince the market that Vancouver’s best days lie ahead. The result is an ecosystem that keeps getting stronger.

Disclosure: This article includes a client of an ESPACIO portfolio company.