In my last post I touched on the strong support system and available resources for our blooming startup communities in Canada. The rock-solid foundation we offer entrepreneurs is an easy competition to enter with Silicon Valley. Talent attraction however, is not.
In recent years losing top talent to the USA has been a serious concern for Canadians in the tech industry, especially those considering making us their businesses home. Approximately 350,000 Canadians have made the pilgrimage over to Silicon Valley, which is just over 1 percent of our total population. An alarming number when put into perspective and something that we as Canadians need to continue getting a handle on.
Supply vs Demand:
We all know how daunting a Canadian winter can be. We relish in the warmth of summer for three months and collect supplies for winter hibernation the other nine! But it can’t be the endless summer that is drawing our talent out of Canada and into perpetual shorts-weather. More likely it’s what happens when supply has trouble meeting demand.
Having established itself early as the world’s startup mecca with tech giants like Facebook, Google and LinkedIn, the Valley became a tech-driven stomping ground and a no-brainer destination for fresh grads. An established ecosystem means more potential for innovation and exciting new technology because of investors with deeper pockets. This leads to the supply of engineers underwhelming the demand, causing well-funded startups to hike up salaries anywhere from 140-160k. Between that and the eternal sun, it’s difficult to compete.
Canada’s got Talent:
Canada’s major cities are known for our tech-oriented universities and an abundance of sought after graduates. Take Waterloo for example: the University of Waterloo is notorious for staffing some of North America’s greatest startups. Last year they had close to a thousand students enrolled for computer engineering alone. Naturally you’d think we see a lot of startups popping up in the Waterloo area right? Wrong. The correlation between a high number of graduates and heavy startup activity has yet to be comparable, which is beginning to seem like a missed opportunity.
Promotion and Retention:
In order to slow the drain of talent leaving our cities, Canadians have to do a better job of promoting our startups and communities to new grads. The first step to attraction is awareness. If students are well educated on the possibilities and potential that staying local could offer, it may help kibosh the consideration of going south.
After attraction we should focus on retention. An unsettling 68% of Canadian startups have been sold to U.S companies over the past 5 years, including Bufferbox to Google and GoInstant to Salesforce.com. Bufferbox however, kept all their original staff in Waterloo.
Awareness isn’t only important for grads. Companies need to know what is required to attract top Canadian talent, and begin the recruitment process early. Everyone out there claims they “Work hard, play hard” but the reality is we are going to have to play a bit harder to move ahead in the talent race.
We may have some setbacks as Canadians, but we have more than a few reasons to keep moving full speed ahead. As previously mentioned we have a solid support system, and a network of resources for aspiring startups. As such we continue to see an increase in startups/success. We also have the benefit of world-renowned post-secondary schooling, and if nothing else, we have location on our side. And with assistance from the government our immigration policy helps us more easily bring talent in and expand our existing companies.
The Valley has irrefutably had a head start, but as we continue to forge a spot for ourselves, Canada is on the road to the proverbial endless summer.