Canada VS Silicon Valley: Where Can You Grow Your Startup

by Josh Biggs in Business on 8th April 2021

It is usually hard for aspiring entrepreneurs to resist the allure of Silicon Valley. Access to some of the tech world’s best minds, proximity to some of the industry’s most influential brands, and extensive networking opportunities in both startup and investor communities are hard to ignore.

Aspiring entrepreneurs do not only need to seek success in Silicon Valley. Companies in the Bay Area – especially Silicon Valley and San Francisco-consistently receive the highest percentage of venture capital money nationwide. However, the slowdown in venture capital funding and questions about the tech bubble have led many entrepreneurs and startups to consider other ways to grow.


One of the countries is gaining momentum with the early-stage startup community in Canada, and with good reason. 

Besides strong economic growth, low taxes, and low business costs, the new Startup Visa is the first program of its kind globally, allowing immigrant entrepreneurs around the world to become permanent residents to start their businesses in Canada. The Canada business visa requirements are quite straightforward.

The Talent Pool Is Endless

With some of the best tech universities globally, including the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia, McGill, and Waterloo, Canada offers a vast array of tech talent without the relentless competition of Silicon Valley.

Moreover, as an increasing number of graduates settle in local subways, entrepreneurs can gain a foothold on a vital mass of talent in a relatively short period.

The Quality Of Life Is Much Higher

While the Bay Area is still one of the most expensive places to live and do business in the United States, Canada offers a lower cost of living without compromising quality. Canadian cities are usually among the most livable in the world.

Software Development Incentives Speak For Themselves

Unlike its southern counterpart, Canada offers extremely lucrative tax breaks for software companies and startups. 

In this case, Canadian companies can claim the Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax deduction, which allows them to write off virtually all of the costs associated with software development.

Since the average software developer earns well in the six figures—and often more in Silicon Valley—only the SR&ED tax breaks make the Canadian startup worthwhile.

The Country Is Progressive By Nature

Many people like to believe that the U.S. is progressive, but it is far behind Canada in many ways. Politically speaking, a recent poll Abacus Data puts current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau among the country’s most beloved leaders. 

Trudeau was also praised for his focus on diversity and equality. The U.S. has found this difficult to overcome in the public and private sectors.

His cabinet is 50 percent female, and the Defense Minister is a Sikh. And while affordable healthcare and fundamental parental leave rights remain hotly debated topics in the U.S., Canadian citizens have long enjoyed progressive health and maternity leave benefits.

An Environment That Fosters Innovation

Many entrepreneurs say Canada has a lot to offer for entrepreneurs. One big advantage, many say, is its rich talent pool, supported by a strong university system and favorable immigration policies that allow many highly educated immigrants to come to Canada.

“Universities produce fantastic candidates ready to work in the environment, driving a lot of innovation in early companies like mine,” says Jake King, CEO of Cmd, a Vancouver-based company founded in 2016 that helps customers secure their Linux servers. Cmd has about 35 employees, 25 of them in Canada.

In his neighborhood, King finds talent among graduates from the University of British Columbia, the University of Vancouver, and Simon Fraser University. Many were exposed to entrepreneurship at school.

“Universities encourage innovative ideas and ways of thinking,” says King. “There’s an entrepreneurial spirit – the desire to build something well and think about problems in a different way.”

King, originally from Australia, believes the atmosphere is similar to that of his home country, also known for its strong entrepreneurial community.

Top Canadian Cities For Startups And Entrepreneurs

Take a look at Canada’s best and brightest cities for startups and entrepreneurs.


This city on the west coast is one of Canada’s biggest and best-known startup hubs. World-famous startups such as Hootsuite and Slack are based there.

The Global Startup Ecosystem Report named Vancouver the 15th best city in the world to start a technology company, and with good reason. Research appeals to Vancouver:

the highest concentration of animation studios and visual effects, two of the top six video game franchises, ranking as one of the world’s 20 largest financial centers.

In the early days, the Slack founder estimated the software market at $ 100 million, which they surpassed in just three years—and have now become the fastest-growing business software of all time. is currently the third-largest video streaming site in the world after Facebook and Google, while the dating app is selling a lot of fish to for $ 575 million. Vancouver leads the way in the PeoplePerHour Startup City Index

The bustling Canadian seaport was voted the best place in the world for a startup, topping the Startup City Index with good access to office space, a high quality of life, and relative ease of starting a company.

The city’s proximity to major business centers such as Seattle and Silicon Valley is another notable advantage, allowing a lively flow of talent between cities up and down the west coast.

Vancouver has aggressive provincial and federal tax incentives, a concentration of skilled labor and talent, and a year-round climate that is temperate and pleasant. Companies like Amazon and Microsoft have opened offices in this city, and there are many more.

Calgary Or Edmonton 

Alberta has two cities that may share a province but bring different benefits to starting a new business.

Edmonton is a leader in Canada across various industries, from biotechnology and digital media to oil and gas. The city has several reputable incubators, including Startup Edmonton and TEC Edmonton.

Edmonton also has several high-quality post-secondary schools that are constantly adding many highly qualified employees to the market.

It may enjoy its status as the provincial capital; however, its larger southern neighbor is probably better known as a place where business happens.

Calgary is Canada’s fourth-largest city by population and is well known as a hub of entrepreneurship and business related to the energy sector.


Toronto has over 230 different nationalities, and with a population of 2.8 million, Toronto has been billed as the most diverse city globally.

It is also one of the most multicultural cities globally, with half the population of foreign origin. It creates a surprisingly diverse, attractive population; it also provides the essential ingredients for starting a startup business.

The undeniable correlation between immigrants’ willingness to move (and their inherent intrepidity) and entrepreneurial activity is visible and evident in Toronto’s broad cultural mix.

Toronto is Canada’s largest city, and it is no coincidence that it also serves as Canada’s technological, commercial, industrial, and financial center.

There are between 2,500 and 4,100 active tech startups. Home to the world’s largest innovation hub (which covers an impressive 1.5 million square feet), Toronto has earned its place as a favorable startup city for entrepreneurs of all kinds.

It is a pleasant place for minority entrepreneurs, especially women: 12.5% of venture capital firm partners in Canada are women, more than double the U.S. rate of 6%.

For entrepreneurs looking for R & D help, Toronto is a great bet.

The significantly lower R & D cost compared to other major startup cities such as Silicon Valley, New York, and Boston makes Toronto an attractive choice. It is almost impossible when you consider that the Canadian government provides a return on investment in R&D. The refund can reach 65% of the R&D cost.

There is evident and dedicated support, and enthusiasm for startups and entrepreneurs in Toronto, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Ontario Entrepreneurs Network.

The Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE), a government entity, supports more than 130 non-profit organizations across Ontario. It aims to support the business at various stages-from researching new ideas to helping the company ready to launch its product.

Moving to Toronto means that you will find yourself in the center of a community that truly values innovation. Toronto has been named one of the most innovative cities in the world.

If you are looking for an example of one of these successful startups in Toronto, you don’t need to look any further than FreshBooks.

FreshBooks is a small business accounting platform with over ten million users. They have a 43,000-square-foot office in the city that employs 245 employees. Mike McDerment, founder and CEO of FreshBooks, is full of praise for Toronto:

It is an attractive place for talented people, a huge market for creative people, and some companies give people hope that it can be done here.

Besides FreshBooks, Toronto is also home to Fortune 500 corporations and the Canadian headquarters of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.


Waterloo, a small city of only 550,000 people, is located sixty miles west of Toronto.

Unlike its small population, Waterloo is home to a massive 1,100 new businesses, making it the region with the highest density of startups of any region in the world other than Silicon Valley.

Therefore, Waterloo is such an incredibly fertile area for startup growth. A recent report by research firm Compass details the many benefits of a Waterloo startup (factors such as growth, productivity, funding, and cost of exit were taken into account), ranking it as the 25th best startup ecosystem globally.

Waterloo is home to a significant portion of Canada’s tech talent. Like San Francisco and the Bay Area, Toronto and Waterloo together form a corridor that accommodates the excess of startup innovation between them.

Thus, the Toronto and Waterloo corridor is often called the “Silicon Valley of the North.”

Also, Waterloo is home to the University of Waterloo, an outstanding resource for startup ecosystems looking to attract new talent.

The University of Waterloo has more than 30,000 students and boasts an internationally recognized engineering program. Students can participate in their cooperative program (graduates with at least one year’s work experience, which is of high value to many companies).

Many companies, some of the well-known, are counting on the University to take on new employees. It suggests that after the University of California, Berkeley, graduates of the University of Waterloo are the second most frequently hired in Silicon Valley.

Startups in Waterloo also benefit from institutions such as the Communitech Coalition and the Accelerator Center. Both provide in-house mentoring from entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, educational courses, and access to funding.

The Accelerator Centre is an award-winning startup accelerator whose mission is to help entrepreneurs “build and scale sustainable, globally competitive companies and give startups the highest probability of long-term success.”


Montreal boasts a close-knit community, supported by unique startup events such as Startupfest, a highly regarded and highly anticipated annual event that brings together a couple of thousand groundbreaking innovators, entrepreneurs, and the world’s preeminent speakers.

Montreal is further strengthened by supporting non-profit organizations and incubators, such as Montreal NewTech and Notman House.

PwC Canada and C.B. Insights have released their MoneyTree report, which details Canadian venture capital activity since 2017. Canadian companies have raised a total of C $ 4.4 billion-and impressively, Montreal has made the most money than any other city on the list.

This significant amount of funding is because Montreal has become an internationally recognized center for artificial intelligence over the past few years.

Montreal-based artificial intelligence (A.I.) company Element A.I. raised $102 million (USD) in Series A funding as of June, the largest amount in the history of the A.I. company.

Another major advantage of getting started in Montreal is the surprisingly affordable real estate market.

When local startups don’t have to worry about the cost of living and lower their prices, it is an enticing prospect for many would-be entrepreneurs.

Currently, the average home price is $ 238,000, significantly lower than in other cities in the North American region.

Montreal’s strong talent pool is aided by the numerous universities and technical institutes that populate the area.

There are distinguished business graduates who flock to the city to earn a living after graduating from Concordia’s John Molson School of Business. Local tech schools further strengthen the startup ecosystem by providing a skilled, motivated engineering workforce.

To Sum Up

Canada is strategically thriving in almost all major business sectors and is a strong rival for Silicon Valley. 

From technology, life sciences, green energy, food, and beverage to fashion and design, music, film and television production, and digital media, the city is growing as a financial center in North America. It is known as the top ten financial centers in the world. 

Canada knows a little about creating a great culture for the success of startups and entrepreneurs.

Maybe it is time to pack up your parka, grab a coffee and start planning your next brilliant startup.

Categories: Business