As the Tech Scene Globalizes, Canada Opens its Door to Professionals Around the World
When was the last time you did a deal over a restaurant meal? It’s probably been a while. Thanks to COVID-19, the era of schmoozing your way to the top of the Valley is gone—and it’s about time. With executives and investors no longer crowded around the same table in a bar or even hovering within the same zip code, Silicon Valley’s tech reign could finally be ending.
We’re in the midst of a pandemic that’s forced companies to adapt to remote work and drove city dwellers out of metropolitan areas in search of less dense pastures. As the situation evolves, it’s becoming clear that these changes aren’t just for now. The era of truly distributed teams is upon us. So what does this mean for the post-pandemic workforce?
If there’s one thing the tech community has learned from COVID-19, it’s that distributed and remote employees can do their jobs from wherever they’re at. This means new technology communities can be cultivated outside of traditional technology hubs, creating opportunities for tech workers to look to new places for cutting-edge opportunities.
And it’s already happening; many professionals have migrated to emerging tech hubs, including Ann Arbor, DC and Boulder. But it’s also occurring up north, where Canada has all the makings to accommodate a global workforce and become the next tech juggernaut. Here’s why:
A budding tech scene
There is a real evergreen factor to the Canadian tech scene. I’ve spent ten years in the industry and there are some things that will always be true.
Firstly, Canada is pretty similar to the United States in terms of our work ethic and workplace cultural norms. Not to mention, we speak the same language – and it’s Americans who have the accents, not us! It doesn’t hurt that Canadian businesses are close to the U.S. market, providing both a physical and time zone proximity that makes it easy to participate in the American tech scene—which will be especially beneficial post-pandemic.
And as the Canadian tech scene continues to innovate and expand, there’s a growing opportunity for tech workers around the world to get involved and help fuel this expansion.
Fresh yet seasoned leadership
When we started Clio in 2008, the Canadian tech scene was going through an overhaul. We felt like the odds were stacked against us—and it ignited a fire for our team to prove the industry wrong. This fire has become ingrained in our company culture in a way that has been crucial to our growth and success as a tech firm. There’s something about building a company away from the spotlight that forces you to fight harder to succeed, and because of the lack of resources readily available to those in Silicon Valley, to do so with a scrappy and disciplined focus.
Canadian companies tend to take a less flashy, more focused path to growth that’s more beneficial in the long haul. To me, it’s clear that many of the cultural values at Clio that have been crucial to our success can be attributed to our Canadian roots. And we’re by no means alone.
Shopify has shown that Canada can produce a category leader. Other tech leaders like Mike Serbinis of League and Steve Ufford of Trulioo have been through 10+ years of leadership, including some successful exits. We’ve all shown that a Canadian tech company can be a global success and the ambitions of Canadian tech firms have grown.
We’re not content to run a decent company—we want to be the best, not just in Canada, but on a global scale. And we know that qualified workers with diverse professional, cultural, and technical backgrounds from outside of Canada are part of this vision.
A transformed talent pool
Even before our current circumstances drove people outside of the traditional tech hubs, the talent pool in Canada was quickly expanding. When I did my MBA, the prestige industries in Canada were extractive (mining and oil) or traditional (banking and consulting). Tech was the fallback option. Now, there’s a marked shift of the brightest students choosing to pursue the tech track in school. Canada’s wide array of universities, including the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia and University of Waterloo (some of the best for engineering), are forming the kind of feeder system that Stanford and Harvard have created for Silicon Valley.
It should come as no surprise that the Tech Talent Report by a U.S.-based commercial real estate and investment firm found that Toronto is North America’s fastest-growing technology market (and Vancouver wasn’t far behind, at number thirteen). As the Canadian tech scene continues to experience rapid growth, workers from around the world looking for new and exciting opportunities should consider putting roots down in Canada.
The pandemic has shown us what the world looks like without face-to-face interaction. The Silicon Valley social scene, where CEOs, VCs and mid-level talent eagerly mingled, ground to a halt. The tech industry is becoming less centralized, and Canada’s ready to become a major player. We may be polite, but we are hungry – so it’s time to turn those unicorns into narwhals!
George Psiharis is the COO of Clio.