While Silicon Valley is still the place to be for many tech workers, Canadian tech companies say they are seeing an unprecedented level of interest from international applicants.
MaRS, an innovation hub in Toronto, surveyed more than 100 Canadian tech companies with more than 1 million in annual revenue and asked them whether they had seen a difference in the number of job applications from outside Canada in 2017 compared to the year prior. (All responding companies had a connection to MaRS in some way — they had received funding from the organization, for example, or had previously participated in one of the organization’s programs for young startups.)
Fifty-three percent of the 55 responding companies said they had seen an increase in international applicants in 2017, and 45 percent said they made more international hires. Some companies reported as much as a 300 percent increase in international applicants, according to MaRS.
Most of these applicants had previously worked in the U.S. — 82 percent of responding companies said they had an applicant in 2017 who came from the U.S. The next most frequently cited countries of origin were India (55 percent) and China (36 percent).
Engineer was the job most likely to be filled with an international applicant, with 47 percent of responding companies saying they had done so in the past year.
MaRS had previously surveyed tech companies in July on the same topic. That survey found that 62 percent of responding companies had seen an increase in international applicants in recent months.
Ian Logan, now the VP of engineering at Toronto-based Drop, is one of the many tech workers to have left Silicon Valley for Canada in the past year. Logan, originally from Canada, left his home in 2008 and worked in Silicon Valley for a number of years, most notably as the director of engineering for Airbnb. He said that while he had always intended to move back to Canada to raise his family, he was spurred to do so in 2017 by the birth of his first child.
Logan said that while the political climate in the U.S. wasn’t a big factor in his decision to move back to Canada, he knew he wanted to raise a family in Canada because of the quality of life the political system there has created.
“They have a universal health care system, [and] paternity or maternity leave for parents are much more, in my opinion, reasonable. Just politics aside, I sense a different quality of life that I kind of wanted to place myself in,” Logan said.
Canada has also made it easier for high-growth firms to bring in international talent in the past year, with the introduction of a Global Skills Strategy Visa that cut the length of time it took eligible firms to bring in international hires from one year to two weeks.
Logan said that since he returned to Canada in November, he’s heard from “around 10 to 15” people he knew in Silicon Valley who are either from Canada originally or have ties to the country and are considering moving there.
As to whether there is a general trend in this direction? “I would confidently say yes,” he said.