The brightest Canadians are moving home

The brightest Canadians are moving home

Five returning Torontonians on why they left Silicon Valley behind

Ami Shah

Co-founder and CEO of Peekapak
In the Valley from August 2014 to March 2015
“In 2014, I moved down to Silicon Valley for Imagine K12, an education accelerator. I considered relocating permanently but quickly decided I wanted to stay in Toronto. The cost of developing a company here is a fraction of what it would be in the Valley, real estate is cheaper, and the government offers a lot of support. Toronto doesn’t have the history that Silicon Valley has, but as we get more momentum and more of our companies grow, our ecosystem will only get bigger and better.”

 

Steve Irvine

Founder and CEO of integrate.ai
In the Valley from August 2014 to January 2017
“When I was growing up in Canada, the tech scene felt like minor-league baseball. I wanted to see if I could hit fastballs down in the Valley, which factored into my decision to work for Facebook there. Once I decided to build my own company, I realized all roads led back to U of T’s Geoffrey Hinton, the world’s leading AI scientist. We have amazing talent here, and nobody knows it. The elements of a successful tech community are emerging. We just need to stoke the flames.”

 

Martha Van Berkel

Co-founder and CEO of Hunch Manifest
In the Valley from 2000 to 2004
“I moved to the Valley right after graduation to work for Cisco, which was growing like gangbusters. It was an adventure. A few years ago, I quit my job, sold my apartment and started a business in Guelph. The cost of living is so much lower; it’s close to Waterloo and still within an hour of Toronto. It’s amazing how much has changed in the past decade: now everybody is hungry. The city has finally reached a critical mass—we have banks, entrepreneurs and investors, and, crucially, customers.”

 

Albert Lai

Founder and CEO of Big Viking Games
In the Valley for six of the past 20 years
“For almost 20 years, I split my time between San Francisco and Toronto, and created several companies along the way. When I started my current one, I realized Ontario was the perfect place to build a business. We have the best primordial soup for the next big thing: a hotbed of amazing engineers from U of T and Waterloo. Once, I would have given my left arm to be around intelligent people and capital in the Valley. Now I realize that Toronto is ripe to become a centre of tech and culture.”

 

Dan Debow

Co-founder and CEO of Helpful
In the Valley from September 2003 to June 2004, part-time from 2008 to present
“While working at a previous company, I was in San Francisco every three to six weeks, staying in hotels. But when I founded my current company, Helpful, I didn’t consider starting it down there. Why would I? Toronto is a great city to start a tech company. There’s amazing talent. The quality of life is great. Investors used to say, ‘We just don’t do deals in Canada.’ But we don’t hear that anymore. They like Toronto because we can acquire and retain talent in a more cost-effective way.”

The Incredible Rise of Tech