VC Funding Doesn’t Reflect Talent in Toronto and KW: Minister
Plea made to Silicon Valley’s funders to visit southern Ontario “supercorridor” and invest.

Silicon Valley startups are eagerly snapping up engineering talent from the University of Toronto and University of Waterloo. But investors from California are not, in turn, boarding planes to Toronto with money in tow.

We should be beating VC investors off with a stick in Ontario,” Brad Duguid, the Ontario Minister of Economic Development, told the Venture North conference.

Duguid said Californian VCs who value Ontario tech grads should come to the Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo “supercorridor” and “kick the tires.”

Engineering talent in southern Ontario is highly sought after in the Valley. “How do we get folks in the Valley to get out from behind their desks and come up here?” he said. “As soon as they discover this ecosystem, they’re going to want a presence here.”

Venture North, held at the MaRS Discovery District, aims to entice VCs outside of Ontario to fund local AI, fintech, retail and SaaS startups.

Some Silicon Valley investors, such as 8VC, have described Toronto and KW as having a density of “technical talent” and are making the area a priority. Companies across Canada raised $734 million USD ($881 million CAD) in Q1 2016, but this is dwarfed by the $3.04 billion USD raised by Silicon Valley alone in the same period.

“Too cold” and “too far” are initial resistances from foreign investors that Duguid hears. But more publicity is needed too — and that’s partially down to startups themselves.

Razor Suleman, CEO of Next 36 and founder of SF-based Achievers, said that natural Canadian humility was a major barrier to publicizing the work being done by startups in southern Ontario.

Suleman started the Spotlight Awards after returning from California to help people get over their reticence to boast: “Six months in Silicon Valley will beat that out of you.”