Waterloo, Ontario, is Canada's Silicon Valley. Here's Why
Updated: May 13, 2021
Waterloo is a small and relatively unknown city in the rest of the world, with a population of only 550,000 people but home to over 1,100 new startups, mainly tech businesses. In fact, with the exception of Silicon Valley in California, the region has the highest startup density of any region on the planet.
The benefits of starting a business in Waterloo were highlighted in a report by research firm Compass, which ranked it as the world's No. 25 best startup ecosystem. Growth, performance, funding, and exit values were all factors considered in the report. Unsurprisingly, Silicon Valley came out on top, followed by New York City and Los Angeles.
Waterloo is best known as the birthplace of BlackBerry, the smartphone manufacturer with a market cap of over $80 billion and nearly 20,000 employees during its heyday in 2008. And for whom one half of Team Pinto, Aron, worked for over a decade.
Today, the Waterloo Region is the place to be for tech workers, with everything from drones to wearables, intelligent marketing to space manufacturing, and a little company you may have heard of called Google...
Here are a few reasons why this bustling business district is an excellent place for businesses to start, grow, and thrive.
There's a collaborative atmosphere.
Waterloo startups have access to a number of important resources, including the Communitech coalition and the Accelerator Center. Both provide in-house mentoring from successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, as well as educational courses and funding opportunities.
The University of Waterloo's Velocity program assists students in the early stages of growing their businesses. Launchpad is a similar program run by Wilfrid Laurier University, one of Canada's fastest-growing universities.
The friendly atmosphere is cited as a major business asset by many Waterloo entrepreneurs and their employees love it too.
The local government is very supportive of the entrepreneurial community.
Many startups in the Waterloo region can take advantage of government grants to help them get started without having to give up equity to investors.
The Ontario government also supports the Entrepreneurs in Residence program, which connects new entrepreneurs with successful entrepreneurs, as well as the MaRS Market Intelligence program, which provides startups with industry research. The government has also pledged $25 million to the Communitech building project over the next five years.
In general, venture capital is on the rise in Canada. According to Thompson Reuters data, more than $2.3 billion was invested in Canadian startups in 522 transactions in 2019, the highest amount since 2002.
There's a lot of tech talent.
The Toronto-Waterloo region employs roughly 280,000 people in the tech industry, which is comparable to Silicon Valley's estimated 380,000.
With over 30,000 undergraduates and an internationally acclaimed engineering program, the University of Waterloo is one of the largest universities in Canada. Students at Waterloo have the option of participating in the university's co-op program, which allows them to graduate with one to two years of work experience, which is appealing to Silicon Valley employers.
"If you ask around Silicon Valley, you'll find that every top company has had an intern from Waterloo, so that's how they know about the region," Kevin Carter, a general partner at SV Angel, said in the report.
Indeed, in 2019, 864 Silicon Valley companies hired graduates from the University of Waterloo.
It's More Livable Than Silicon Valley
All these amazing tech talents need a place to live, and Silicon Valley in California, for many, is not a great place to live at all. Property, when it can be found at all, is prohibitively expensive, even for tech execs to afford and a lack of supply has become a serious problem.
Housing stock aside, the Waterloo Region is just a great place to live. Despite all the innovations, and the tech wizardry, living in our region still comes along with that small town feel that so many crave. It's a great place to raise a family, there is green space in abundance, the population is hugely diverse and that's just for starters.
As long time area residents themselves, Aron and Angelica Pinto will be happy to fill you in on many more reasons the Waterloo Region is so attractive as a place to start a bright future, whether you work in tech or not!
Planning to buy or sell a home in the Waterloo Region but have questions? Why not speak with an expert? Contact the award-winning Team Pinto here, or book a free Zoom consultation to discuss your unique Waterloo Region real estate needs here.