San Francisco and New York have competition from their neighbors to the north when it comes to startup hubs.
Canada currently ranks as the the 5th largest global high-tech sector and the 12th most innovative country in the world according to Bloomberg’s 2015 Innovation Index. The country welcomes startups with the lowest business launch costs among the Group of Seven forum for highly industrialized democracies, which coordinates economic, security, and energy policy. Aside from Canada, it includes Japan, the US, Italy, United Kingdom, France, and Germany.
Trailblazing Cities, Programs, and Universities
Would-be innovators are nurtured through degree programs like University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business. At its downtown campus, graduate students are encouraged to interact with the nation’s leading business sectors in the professional mentorship program and numerous initiatives through the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
Launched in 2013, the Quartier de l’innovation (QI) is an innovation ecosystem in the heart of Montreal that aims to boost the city’s potential for creativity. Partnered with McGill University, École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS), Concordia University, and UQAM, QI draws on the complementary resources of its numerous collaborators in research, training, innovation, and entrepreneurship to create concrete projects that are changing the face of the city.
Innovation is also ingrained in the DNA of Waterloo, which has a population of 550,000 in Southern Ontario and is home to 1,100 new ventures, giving it the nickname the “Silicon Valley of the North.” Its tech credits include BlackBerry (founded in 1984), with its beginning in two-way messaging to its current focus on providing mobile-native security software and services to secure the Enterprise of Things. The BlackBerry QNX Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Center in Ottawa is currently the central innovation hub for driverless car innovation. QNX software is currently running in more than 60 million vehicles from 40 different automakers and is embedded in mission-critical, Canadian-developed space shuttle systems.
In Calgary, Dynamic Air Shelters founder and entrepreneur, Harold Warner, turned his world-record-setting hot air ballooning, into a successful business venture. The company’s quick-deploy, blast-resistant, inflatable structures for workers and equipment at oil refineries, disaster sites, and other harsh-environments, are now setting the industry standard for site safety.
Business Support and Government Incentives
For example, Creation Technologies’s partnership outsourcing model helps businesses turn ideas into manufactured products.
President and CEO of Creation Technologies, Bhawnesh Mathur, noted: “There will always be the mega companies, but we work with the small-to- medium-sized companies that are highly innovative and need personalized, responsive services to bring their ideas to market.”
The Canadian Government also aids startups with tax incentives like the Scientific Research and Experimental Development program, which offers refundable tax credits of 15% to 35% to fund salaries, contractor fees, and materials.
In March 2017, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development announced an investment of up to $20 million for clean energy projects at the pre-commercialization stage.
The Council of Canadian Innovators (CCI) was formed in 2015 to help companies scale up while keeping Canadian roots, using the sociopolitical capital of its members to reach the government.
“When voices come together, they have a profound impact on how government will respond,” said its executive director, Ben Bergan.
Spotlight on Success
Igloo is one of Canada’s innovation champions. The company launched in 2007 to help organizations create digital workplaces to facilitate communication, collaboration, knowledge sharing, and social engagement. Since then, it has expanded to more than 10,000 digital workplace communities, and was recognized on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 as one of North America’s fastest-growing businesses for the past two years.
Where are Igloo’s headquarters? In the Silicon Valley of the North—Waterloo.