Silicon Valley is best known as the innovation hub of the world, producing some of the most innovative and successful tech companies. Whether it is because of the ecosystem or the amount of funding available to startups, companies from Silicon Valley have taken the lead on creating the most disruptive customer-centric solutions. Recently, Toronto has a growing reputation as the world’s leading tech hub, known internationally as not only a city that embraces diversity but also as a destination for startups. The Canadian government’s initiatives for funding, creating partnerships, supporting entrepreneurs, as well as their friendly immigration policies, has attracted talent from various parts of the world. But having a welcoming environment and support for innovation can only get you so far. So what is it about Toronto that has set it apart from the rest of the world?
Building an Infrastructure for Innovation
Startups such as Ritual, Shopify, and Hootsuite are considered to be three of the most successful Canadian tech startups to date. As they are best known for providing customers with solutions that are convenient and frictionless. An essential ingredient to the success of these companies has been Canada’s culture of innovation. Critical stakeholders in the Canadian ecosystem, such as government organizations and VC firms, have all played an essential role in building an environment that supports entrepreneurs and fuels innovation. Initiatives that work to attract talent, develop opportunities for startups, and create funding, have contributed to building a culture of enablers and not one of competition. Programs such as Go North, for instance, has helped to attract 350,000 Canadians home to work as a part of the booming tech industry. From 2012-2017, Toronto has invited a total of 82,100 tech jobs in total- a growth of 52%. Aside from attracting talent, partnerships between players in the ecosystem have also been an essential part of Toronto becoming the world’s next tech hub. The Creative Destruction Lab at the University of Toronto, for example, was established to help science-based startups scale up. Today, through partnerships between academia and businesses, the program has helped 225 science-based startups. With a strong foundation for innovation, Toronto has increasingly become a natural fit for companies interested in building disruptive solutions for customers.
Based on the Canadian government’s push to build an infrastructure for innovation, Canada has attracted Big Tech such as Netflix and Amazon. With complete modernization of Canada’s payments infrastructure as well as the possibility of an Open Banking system, Canada represents an opportunity for companies. As a technology-forward city, Toronto’s innovative support has been a critical pull factor, providing organizations the opportunity to create disruptive solutions.
Reverse Brain Drain
Over the last five years, Toronto has become a growing destination for tech jobs that have attracted thousands of Canadians back home from the US and Europe. For Canadians that have worked either in the US or abroad, Toronto has become an attractive option for work. Toronto offers a business climate that values diversity, friendly immigration policies, and the same access to opportunities for entrepreneurs. Outside of Canada, the shifting political environment in both the US and Britain has been one of the major catalysts for motivating Canadians to go back home. With Canadian talent returning back to Toronto, big tech companies have begun to set up Canadian operations. For both incumbents and startups operating in Canada, the surge of tech talent in Toronto has been an essential ingredient in their success with innovation. The diversity of talent available to companies has helped to enable multiple perspectives, eliminate biases, foster creativity, and build problem-solving. Together, this unique skill set has become critical for companies when conducting primary research and testing innovative solutions with customers for desirability. Today the Canadian consumer is diverse, requiring solutions that are not currently being offered in the market. The combination of Toronto’s ecosystem and diverse talent has created a unique market opportunity for partnering and building customer-centric solutions that help fill the gaps.
Toronto is a unique opportunity for any entrepreneur who is considering starting their own company. Adopting a policy of multiculturalism, Canada recognizes the culture, race, and religion of all its constituents as being equal. In contrast to the Valley, which is famously difficult for starting a company, Toronto has fewer barriers to success for entrepreneurs. For entrepreneurs around the world, the ability to start a company where they are judged for their idea and not for their background is a significant pull factor. A unique quality of Toronto as a tech hub is respect for diverse voices and the acknowledgment that not everyone comes from the same opportunities. These two factors have played an essential part in attracting entrepreneurs from around the world to stay and grow their companies in Toronto. The establishment of diverse funds focused on marginalized entrepreneurs, such as the Female Founders Fund, Standup Ventures, and Backstage Capital, have helped to invest millions in underrepresented entrepreneurs. As Canadian consumer’s needs and expectations continue to evolve, the ability to deliver products and services that enhance the customer’s experience, whether it be through convenience or speed, has created an opportunity for all entrepreneurs to be successful.