“There’s no better time to be running a tech company & there’s no better place to be running it than from Waterloo”
I couldn’t agree more.
First, to set the stage, it’s great to be running a tech company anywhere – the number of tools that can be rapidly deployed to help get you off the ground is astounding, and there is investment money available for teams that can execute well. On the tool front, in many ways it feels like you assemble a startup these days, rather the building one – tools like Google Apps, Mailchimp, Basecamp, Freshbooks, CloudBees and others make it supremely easy to build your company. Note: I’ve included a great infographic on tools you might want to use at the bottom of this post. On the investment front, tools like AngelList and others make it easier to connect with potential investors, regardless of geography.
So with that out of the way, why Waterloo Region?
The support network available here is second to none. The Communitech Venture Services Program is world-class (from the perspective of someone that’s been able to experience the quality of the mentorship first-hand) and other near-by programs, like those offered at MaRS (who just announced they’re expanding), are great institutional ways to help companies grow. These are complemented by a core network of individuals that are just as willing to help. The folks locally pulling together things like StartupCamp, DemoCamp, Founder Drinks and other similar events have helped any number of would-be entrepreneurs connect with people that have done it before. Our region is replete with experienced entrepreneurs that are willing to help. If you’re embarking on a new project, having a core network of people and organizations that are interested in helping you succeed is crucial, and our region is fortunate to have such a robust network.
Although there is a lot of truth behind the sentiment that there isn’t a lot of VC money available in Canada at the moment, what’s also similarly evident, is that more and more VC firms and Angel Investors from the US are looking north of the border for their investments. More specifically – they’re also looking at Waterloo Region. Investments into companies like Kik and TribeHR (full disclosure: I’m co-founder & CEO at TribeHR, and am unabashedly biased towards the company) and growth of offices like Google’s Kitchener Office are evidence of the decisions that are driving the buzz. Like Ali mentioned in his CBC interview – people are talking. People know that Waterloo is where things are happening, and that buzz is following real money coming into the area. In addition to outside money coming in, we have an increasingly active Angel Investment community – individual investors and organized groups (such as GTAN) are making it easier for startups that have early traction to speed things up.
Proximity to Universities
Anyone that knows me, knows that I’m not the biggest fan of how my University education made it difficult to pursue my entrepreneurial adventures, but in the intervening years things have changed significantly. On-campus programs like Velocity are helping students exercise their entrepreneurial muscles earlier than ever before, and I’m seeing more and more students take advantage of the opportunities afforded by networks I mentioned above. Go to StartupCamp or DemoCamp or attend a featured speaker or presentation put on by Communitech, and there is always a strong undergraduate representation. The opportunity for startups to bring on students in full time or part time roles is often over-looked: with one of the top engineering schools and one of the top business schools, we have our pick of the brightest and most entrepreneurial students in the country. I don’t mean to imply that they are less expensive to hire, rather I mean that they are often more open to experimenting and adapting to changing conditions, and with a 4-month co-op cycle, startups can iterate on projects and models more quickly than others. This is a strong strategic advantage that is often overlooked.
So yes, when I look around, this is definitely the best place and time to be running a tech company.
As I mentioned above – here is a great inforgraphic, courtesy of the folks at BestVendor, on which tools other startups are using.