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Published On: Mon, May 29th, 2017

Toronto’s Hot Tech Sector and Canada’s Inclusiveness Are Winning Cards

While Canada generally and Toronto specifically may not yet be ready to replace the United States and San Francisco as the leading hotbeds for tech innovation, they’re coming up fast.

There’s a lot on the plus side: Top-notch schools, with their incubators and accelerators. The requisite skilled workers, with pay scales and benefits to attract and keep them. Growing levels of investment make a difference, along with an overall environment for working and living that ranks up with the best.

And even better, there’s the charismatic Prime Minister Justin Trudeau out there selling Canada’s message of inclusiveness and tech readiness. It’s a welcome one in the face of the doubt and uncertainty being sowed in the United States by an America-first president who would close off borders to Muslims and others.

The potential talent drain that global and U.S.-based tech executives fear is not an issue in Canada – a nation that is, in fact, a magnet to those of many diverse countries and cultures. It’s richer for it, and that has helped drive its growth in tech.

photo/ View of CityPlace, Toronto from Canoe Landing Park HBW40 via wikimedia

Trudeau recently played the Canada card as the first-ever sitting head of a government to be invited to Microsoft’s exclusive CEO Summit in Redmond, Washington. It was an opportunity to ensure that global tech decision makers and investors were reminded of Canada’s workforce – skilled, creative and diverse – and its leadership on tech fronts like artificial intelligence and 3D programming.

“There’s no doubt that Toronto was a highlight of his conversations,” said Jonmichael Moy, a long-time tech executive, who has worked in both Silicon Valley and Toronto.

“We’ve got a red hot tech community, and part of that is attributed to the drive of immigrants or children of immigrants,” Jonmichael Moy continued.  “They bring a certain dynamism that fuels innovation and fresh ideas. Canada, and certainly, its tech community, are richer for it.”

Toronto is the center of Canada’s research and development community, with over 14,600 tech businesses in the metropolitan area, accounting for some 35 percent of all Canada’s tech businesses and employing nearly 160,000.   

The city also has a host of emerging tech companies promising to transform traditional industries. LEAGUE, for one, is in a leading position for the “insurtech” field – or digital alternatives to traditional health insurance – and its CEO expects his company to reach the billion dollar mark by next year. Other fast-growing companies, like Shopify, FreshBooks, Wattpad and Influitive, are also helping to define Toronto’s tech community.

The goal is to build global companies out of the startups, even while showing that already global companies located elsewhere can make Toronto a good market to expand from.

A solid base has been built, thanks to a robust eco structure. Toronto’s universities have been instrumental, with their non-profit incubators and accelerators. The city has broken an early funding drought, thanks partially to the example set by the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System pension fund. Better regulations have enhanced its attractiveness, too, with tax advantages for foreign investors.

And of course, there’s the quality of life in Toronto and the growing and diverse pool of talent, which Toronto Mayor John Tory said “is as rich as any in the world.”

As Prime Minister Trudeau might have told anyone who would listen at the Microsoft CEO Summit, Toronto represents something important on the global stage for tech innovation and economic growth: A welcoming destination for techpreneurs of every country and culture who are ready to change and benefit the world.

Author: Connie Miller

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