What is Canada doing to encourage U.S. entrepreneurs?

What is Canada doing to encourage U.S. entrepreneurs?
Credit: Photo: Flickr, tsaiproject

It was always a running narrative that if Trump were elected president, many Americans would pick up and move to Canada. Canadians initially took it as somewhat of a joke – and a chance to gloat over the true north – however now that’s it’s actually happened, we’re finding out some Americans weren’t kidding.

The number of Americans seeking refugee status in Canada increased five-fold in November 2016 from the same period last year. There may have been just 28 claims – but it still counts for something.

And while it’s actually not that easy for the average American to immigrate to Canada – in 2017, the country will focus on welcoming refugees and family reunification – Canada also really wants entrepreneurs. Like, it really wants them. Just head to the government’s Start-up Visa website (yes, one exists) and you’ll see it written in big, bold letters.

So what is Canada doing to encourage international entrepreneurship? And why is the country a great place to call your business home?

Oh Canada. What’s not to love?

Canadians drank hot cocoa and watched Brexit unfold from afar. We also habitually flip through fun Justin Trudeau memes. Canada was even nominated for country of the year by The Economist, for staying sober and liberal while other rich countries became ‘intoxicated by illiberal populism.’ Sometimes it feels like nothing much happens in Canada – but when it comes to growing a business, little turmoil is probably a good thing.

Take Canada’s banking system, for example. The World Economic Forum routinely names it one of the soundest in the world. Canada is also ranked first in the G7 for overall business cost effectiveness. One Canadian dollar currently equals 0.75 cents U.S. – which means lower manufacturing, labour, distribution, and even electricity costs for U.S. companies moving north of the border.

And when it comes to skilled workers, Canada doesn’t mess around. The country’s educational system generates quality engineers and developers, which compete on a level playing field with U.S. talent. The University of Toronto – one of Canada’s largest and most prestigious – ranks 16th worldwide in computer science and information systems. Another school, University of Waterloo, found in Waterloo, Ontario, ranks 24th.

If you’re in Silicon Valley, you’ve probably even heard of the University of Waterloo. Recruiters from big tech-companies like Google and Amazon head to the small town in Ontario to find new talent – in fact, graduates from the school are the second-most-frequently hired in Silicon Valley, just after students from University of California, Berkeley.

What is Canada doing to encourage entrepreneurship?

You know that Start-up Visa everyone in the U.S. is calling for? Yeah. As I mentioned, Canada already has that. And better yet, successful applicants don’t just receive temporary status – they become permanent residents.

To immigrate through the program, applicants need to secure a commitment from a designated angel investor or venture capital fund, be able to communicate in French or English, have completed 1 year of post-secondary education, and be financially stable while establishing the business. Even more, Canada is now trying out the Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Pilot Program, which enables immigrant investors to apply for permanent residency, too.

In terms of other government programs – both federal and provincial wide – the list goes on and on. There’s the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) which allows Canadian employers to recruit skilled foreign workers and international students for permanent positions. There’s also Futurpreneur, which provides up to $7,500 in grants to newcomers without credit history – and up to $45,000 for those with credit history – between the ages of 18 and 39.

Additionally Canada boasts the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Program, a federal tax incentive to encourage Canadian businesses to conduct research. Similarly, there’s the Industrial Research Assistance Program, which provides advisory services, funding, networking, and youth employment programs to help businesses develop technology and accelerate growth.

While there are some pretty well-established investment funds in Canada, Canadian entrepreneurs also rely on heftier U.S funds to get the money they need. The government’s Venture Capital Action Plan (VCAP) was made to combat this. With a $400-million CAD budget, the program offers incentives to private investors, and for every $2 CAD committed by them, the government commits another $1 CAD to early-stage companies.

Entrepreneurs joining forces

Canada is a place with some pretty vast resources – from freshwater lakes, forestry, oil, to hydroelectric power. But according to Leo Lax, Canada is shifting to focus more on intellectual capital.

Lax, who Publicize is involved with, is the executive managing director of L-SPARK, an accelerator for SAAS startups, located in Ottawa, Ontario. He says that private incubators and accelerators, as well as the government through programs and grants, are all working hard to create an environment that allows entrepreneurs to flourish and explore their ideas in a rapid fashion.

For example, L-SPARK hosts SAAS North, a sizeable SAAS conference in Ottawa aimed at helping Canadian companies and investors network and grow together. It also hosts Cottage Pitchfest, an event located in Ontario’s 1000s islands region featuring Canadian music, BBQ, and Silicon Valley based VCs.

There’s Startupfest in Montreal, too. The event features a super Canadian Tent Village, which holds pitch competitions, startup booths, and presentations from mentors, etc. Additionally, innovations centers like MARS and Waterloo’s Communitech help to connect entrepreneurs with resources, host events, and serve as collaborative office spaces.

And while Canada doesn’t have 500+ innovation labs, accelerators or incubators, Lax says that certainly comes with a perk. Everyone gathers at the places that do exist, to make the community in Canada a lot more tight-knit.

Canada is a destination ready to take its position in the global market. And according to Lax, it’s probably the safest place to grow your business. With a Startup Visa, government programs, and a cost-effective, protective environment, the country wants to help entrepreneurs – international and Canadian alike – to make the maximum use of these perks and become Canadian success stories. So grab your winter boots, entrepreneurs. Your new country awaits.  

This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.

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