The new Silicon Valley: How Canadian culture is driving tech startup success

Certn Chief Revenue Officer Rory Capern in the CBQ
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The geographic capital of tech innovation is changing. Once holding the monopoly over tech startup success, Silicon Valley is falling victim to a barrier faced by major hubs of the past — they have centralized similar innovative minds but are now unable to pivot fast enough with changing global markets. To combat this issue, Silicon Valley is now outsourcing to acquire the new skills and traits necessary in the age of rapid tech innovation. This is where Canada and our wealth of homegrown talent comes into play.

Often deemed the hub for technological innovation and production, Silicon Valley is globally recognized as the unofficial destination for upcoming tech entrepreneurs and startups. However, with the growing number of major tech companies setting roots in alternative regions such as Georgia, Florida, Ontario and British Columbia – it’s important for emerging tech startups to note why a variety of Canadian cities are gaining notoriety for their tech innovation and skill. 

As the global job market widens, companies around the world are looking to Canada for remote talent, leading to possible brain drain as our brightest and best are recruited for established opportunities in other countries. While remote hiring has ample benefits for both employers and applicants around the world, rapid and excessive outsourcing of Canadian talent will have critical and long-lasting effects, including a catastrophic reduction in tech innovation and development of local startup economies. 

A fine balance between global hiring of Canadian talent and retaining Canadian innovators is more important than ever before. Recognizing the talents and skills within Canada, as well as the unique opportunities afforded to tech innovators by remaining in Canada, our nation can hold on to talent and continue to strengthen our reputation as a tech innovation capital.  

Differences in character between Canadian and U.S. entrepreneurs play a significant role in the growth of Canada as a tech centre, specifically in how Canadian entrepreneurs face challenges and seek collaboration. 

With 20 years of Canadian tech experience across a variety of regions, I have seen firsthand how willing Canadian entrepreneurs are to align resources and cooperate with other innovators, driving international growth. Less access to capital compared to startups in the U.S. or Europe also results in Canadian tech innovators doing more with less, exemplifying a strong value for resourcefulness and creativity. 

Canadians are gritty by nature, often acting faster and recognizing new opportunities before our global competitors. Often still in the earthly stages of growth, Canadian offices of international firms tend to act as “labs” for their global parents. As a result, these Canadian locations are often willing to try new things quickly, opening up vital market opportunities for entrepreneurial companies. 

Canadian innovators exemplify a stronger tolerance to risk, more often than not taking the large, yet calculated bets on new innovation, approaches to business or partnerships required to scale. This keeps Canadian startups generally one step ahead of the competition and able to capitalize on new opportunities for investment and innovation.

Across the country, tech hubs are sprouting up, including The Corridor — spanning from Waterloo to Toronto, spearheaded by Shopify, Google and D2L — and the growing tech hub in Metro Vancouver

The first major advantage to organizations looking to settle in Canada compared to major U.S. cities is the economic boost. The tax benefits, lower rent and easy access to talent via expanding remote opportunities allows startups to operate at a lower cost while achieving similar revenue results to conducting business in the U.S. As all startups aspire to achieve significant profit growth, basing headquarters within Canada makes good business sense.

Canadian-based startups also offer a unique benefit to their local ecosystems and are known for their ability to connect with local industries to accelerate innovation. Perfect examples include Shopify’s ability to spark local ecosystems surrounding e-commerce and drive the development of new breakout companies. Canada’s ability to share, collaborate and support others as an innovation community allows our startups the chance to excel.

Looking to the future of Canadian tech growth, Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, two integral technological innovations to solving a host of major global issues, are Canada’s strength. Continued innovation and funding within these ecosystems are vital and will ensure Canada continues to stake its claim as the new Silicon Valley.

During a time when global hiring and outsourcing of talent is growing exponentially, Canadian entrepreneurs need to be even more aware of the opportunities and talent present at home. National remote teams should be capitalized on, allowing diverse skills and ideas to be shared across growing innovation hubs, with the aim of increasing the quality of Canadian products and expanding operations. 

Recognizing and celebrating Canada’s ability to take on the identity of a new tech hub is not only beneficial in terms of topping the global ranking for tech innovation, but it solidifies what we already know — that we continue to be the underdog, able to excel with few resources and surpass the usual leaders. 

This also acts as a strong lesson for tech startups. If you have a great idea, it’s probably best to stay here. 

Rory Capern is the Chief Revenue Officer of Certn, certn.co.

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The Canadian Business Quarterly (The CBQ) provides an in-depth view of business and economic development issues taking place across the country. Featuring interviews with top executives, government policy makers and prominent industry bodies The CBQ examines the news beyond the headlines to uncover the drivers of local, provincial, and national affairs.

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