There’s nothing wrong with Canadian talent and innovative leadership. What’s wrong is that a lot of it is working in the United States to places like Silicon Valley instead of in Canada. A recent article in the Toronto Star underlined that the Canadian brain drain to the United States is alive and well. Details of particular significance included:
The National Foundation for American Policy study reveals that more than half of the 87 U.S. start-ups with valuations of more than $1B (U.S.) that have yet to go public were started by immigrants. Canada ranks as the second largest talent source behind only India.
The Canadian-created companies include some of the biggest names in technology today including:
Uber (co-founded by Garrett Camp, who went to school at the University of Calgary and hit earlier with StumbleUpon)
Slack (co-founded by Stewart Butterfield, who earlier co-founded Flickr)
CloudFlare (co-founded by Michelle Zatlyn, who graduated from McGill University before moving to the U.S. for business school)
SpaceX (founder Elon Musk has a Canadian citizenship and attended Queen’s University).
Other companies with Canadian ties include AppDirect, ContextLogic (maker of the Wish shopping app) and Moderna Therapeutics.
There is nothing new about Canadians moving to the U.S. to pursue their technology dreams. Companies such as eBay and Flickr have strong Canadian connections (Toronto native Jeff Skoll co-founded eBay) and estimates suggest that there are 350,000 Canadians in the Silicon Valley alone.
This means that despite criticisms of U.S. immigration policies, the U.S. immigration system has worked well in attracting this talent to America. From a Canadian perspective, however, the question is what is being done to reverse this trend and why isn’t Canada attracting such immigrants from other countries at a similar pace?