software development team in vancouver and canada

How Vancouver Lures Tech Talent from Silicon Valley

Andrew Zola
Andrew Zola on Linkedin

Situated on the Pacific coast and boasting mild weather and beautiful surroundings, Vancouver is also a rapidly growing tech hub that’s in desperate need of highly skilled workers.

A big impediment to the city's evolution as a tech hub in the past was that Canadian software engineering grads often headed straight to San Francisco and Silicon Valley in search of higher pay and wider career opportunities.

This phenomenon is nothing new as the world’s top talent traditionally flocked to California. But all this came to a screeching halt on November 8th, 2016. In fact, this single event has now made it much easier for Canada to lure U.S. citizens and immigrant workers from Silicon Valley to Seattle.

Today, Canadian software firms are starting to see a rise in foreign applications, even some from U.S. citizens who are looking for more stability and a welcoming environment. This probably isn’t driven by just the racial and political tension that has been simmering for a while.

The skyrocketing cost of living in the Bay Area is likely another factor that’s making Canada and Vancouver, in particular, more attractive.

So how are tech firms in Vancouver luring tech talent from Silicon Valley?

By Taking Advantage of Government Policy

The Canadian government is making it much easier to hire foreigners than ever before. According to Canada’s minister of innovation, Navdeep Bains, the government is going to act rapidly to fast-track work permits to attract highly-skilled talent.

This means that immigration processing times that once took months will be cut down to just two weeks. So it should have a significant impact on companies in British Columbia that are looking to grow and scale up. In Navdeep Bains’ own words, "...this is a big deal. It's a game changer."

We still have a little over a month to go before we see this change come into effect through the Global Talent Stream which is set to commence on June 12, 2017. But once this new program under the federal government's temporary foreign worker program gets rolling, the tech industry will probably see major changes over a short period of time. 

By Transforming Stateside Nationalist Fervor into Canada’s Brain Gain

Whether you want to call it a nationalist fervor or just plain racism, firms in Vancouver are in a very happy place right now because they can take advantage of the instability south of the border and turn it into a brain gain.

This situation could also have some long term implications as we are not just talking about those currently employed in California. U.S. universities that attract the largest number of students from India and around the world are also in decline.

This is partly due to visa restrictions and the current administration’s view on immigrants. Furthermore, recent racially motivated attacks on Indians students have also made Canada a highly attractive option for higher education and career opportunities.

As a result, it has placed the country in an unexpected position where it can now attract not only today’s top talent but also draw in the next generation of leading minds (and the capital they bring with them) over the next few years.

It’s not a secret that the success of the U.S. technology firms heavily depended on funneling in talent from around the world. So there’s a general feeling within the industry that it’s now Canada’s turn to shine.

Okay, so maybe tech companies in Vancouver really don’t need to do much to poach highly skilled tech talent from Silicon Valley. The U.S. government and some parts of American society are already doing all the work for them.

This situation creates an extremely opportunistic environment for Canadian companies looking for highly skilled people.

So the competition is going to heat up domestically as other cities around the country also join the race to snap up the best minds from south of the border (and from around the world).