Why Canada is an increasingly attractive destination for SMEs and startups

By Frances Jenner September 21, 2018

Canada is all-too-often overshadowed by its louder, more boisterous neighbour. However, despite the United States’ reputation as a fertile breeding ground for startups, Silicon Valley’s sky-high prices are causing its popularity to wane among budding startups. For those wanting to realise a life-long entrepreneurial ambition, Canada could be a cheaper and better option.

Canada’s startup scene is supported by the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE), which was created by the government and provides a plethora of advantages and support for businesses in the region. It matches startups to the resources they need, providing financial assistance and experienced advisors to help small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) grow. Almost all of Ontario’s 49 incubators and accelerators are linked through the ONE, creating a diverse community of businesses that can mutually benefit from sharing contacts and experiences.

To add to this, as Forbes explained that Canada boasts a much lower cost of research and development (R&D) than in the United States, and the Canadian government even provides refunds of up to 65% on companies’ investments in this sector, giving it a distinct edge over other regions.

In 2005, the MaRS discovery district was created, a huge 1.5 million square foot complex with a venture programme and an immense network of corporate partnerships. Dubbed “the leader in the trend toward urban innovation districts,” it hopes to attract the best talent from Canada and worldwide to participate in its startup schemes.

And starting yesterday, September 20, Canadian businesses will have even more support, as Canadian companies BlackBerry and L-Spark announced a partnership that will launch a new accelerator programme to help foster technological innovation in their native country.

“Partnering with BlackBerry to accelerate the growth of high-potential Canadian SMEs is the most effective way to grow the next great, global, technology company,” said Leo Lax, executive managing director, L-Spark. “But more importantly, it is a great way to elevate the entire Canadian technology community to reach and thrive within the global marketplace.”

L-Spark is Canada’s largest Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) accelerator, and together with mobile-phone company Blackberry, they hope to help SMEs grow their businesses and bring new products to the market using BlackBerry QNX technology.

QNX is a commercial real-time operating system which is currently used in anything from nuclear power plants to autonomous vehicles and powers safe, reliable and secure systems for global companies like Audi, Cisco, Fiat-Chrysler, Ford, General Electric, Intuitive Surgical, Lockheed Martin, and Siemens.  

“BlackBerry is proud to play an integral role in the growth of Canada’s innovation economy,” said Grant Courville, VP, Product Management and Strategy, BlackBerry QNX, BlackBerry. “The new accelerator program is a great opportunity for us to better interact and collaborate with Canadian software companies and help bring to market innovative products that will shape the way we’ll live, work and play in the future.”

The accelerator programme will select six companies to join an intensive six-month programme which will provide one-on-one training aimed to grow and scale each company according to its individual needs, as well as developing new products to bring to the market.

With more and more support being provided for small businesses in Canada, both from the government and private businesses, it is an increasingly attractive environment in which dreams can be turned into reality.