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.
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.
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.”