Canada comes in top 5 among G20 in Entrepreneurship Ranking

Lack of regulatory barriers, availability of venture capital funding and a culture that embraces entrepreneurship placed Canada in the top quartile in the EY G20 Entrepreneurship Barometer 2013 (U.S. Department of State)

A new report by Ernst & Young places Canada’s entrepreneurial ecosystem in the top five among the G20 countries.

The G20 Entrepreneurship Barometer 2013 ranks a country’s entrepreneurial environment according to its score in five sub-categories: access to funding, entrepreneurship culture, tax and regulation, education and training, and coordinated support between government, academic institutions and the private sector.

The formulation of the ratings relies on business environment indicators, like number of new businesses started per year, data collected in a survey of more than 1,500 entrepreneurs across the G20 countries, the insights gained in interviews with entrepreneurs, academics and experts, and a qualitative analysis of government initiatives to encourage and assist entrepreneurship.

Canada came fourth in the access to funding category, thanks largely to per capita venture capital funding that is second only to the U.S. It ranked third in entrepreneurship culture, behind the U.S. and South Korea, as interviewees had a generally positive opinion of the country’s attitude toward entrepreneurship and its acceptance of failure (more accepting than other countries).

In the tax and regulation category, which scores countries by the ease of complying with regulations when starting and running a business, and the number of special tax incentives for entrepreneurs, the country came second, after Saudi Arabia, for its simple business registration process, lack of labour laws allowing for a flexible labour market, and an abundance of tax subsidies for small and medium sized enterprises.

While the G20 Entrepreneurship Barometer is one of many possible ways of determining the quality of an entrepreneurial ecosystem, and has not been shown to predict for entrepreneurial success, Canada’s strong showing will at the very least help boost its image globally as a centre of innovation and a country that’s open for business.

Diane Francis Says Canada Needs a Silicon Valley

Diane Francis says Canada needs to do more create its own version of Silicon Valley in order to obtain the economic benefits that tech entrepreneurs can provide

A recent article in the blog of Diane Francis, an editor-at-large for the National Post, argues that Canada needs to create its own version of the American Silicon Valley, and commends Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) for taking a step in this direction with the creation of the Start-Up Visa.

Francis says that skilled entrepreneurs can provide the type of economic boost that a country cannot ignore:

Canada has been America’s farm team for centuries, providing brawn, brainpower and talent to feed its mighty industries. But the contest for talent has never been greater, notably for those technology entrepreneurs who are capable of invention, innovation and single-handedly replicating the GNP of small states.

She applauds Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s May visit to the U.S. to recruit technology workers facing H-1B problems, and argues that the Canadian government needs to do more campaigns like this.

With the CEOs of American technology giants lobbying for greater government action to attract foreign tech talent to the U.S., Congress won’t stand still Francis says, and will try to match Canada’s Start-Up Visa program.

The federal government should be looking to add to its efforts now, to match the inevitable response by the U.S. government.

Not only should Canada be recruiting foreign tech workers living in the U.S., it should also be encouraging immigration by Americans themselves, who could find Canada’s tech clusters, a midst world class urban centres enticing, she argues.

Francis notes that the Government of Canada has a $500 million Venture Capital Action Plan in the works, which will subsidize Canadian venture capital firms that invest in Canadian start-ups.

Government subsidies like these, Francis says, are alone not enough to create a “technology venture capitalist marketplace” however, and the federal government should also be scaling up the Start-Up Visa program and increasing tax breaks for entrepreneurs.

A focus on economic impact of immigration

Francis’ call to action on attracting foreign entrepreneurs is one of several in a series by influential Canadian individuals and prominent Canadian institutions urging the country to make a more concerted effort to extract economic benefits from immigration.

Other than pushing for more entrepreneur friendly immigration programs, the other area of immigration policy that pundits have repeatedly pressed the country to give more attention to has been building on Canada’s strengths as a destination for international students and increasing the foreign student population.

This has included calls to make it easier for international students already in Canada to become permanent residents.

The provincial governments have also called on the federal government to increase the role of the provinces in selecting new Canadians. They say that the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) allow them to select immigrants that meet their unique economic needs.

Immigration Minister to Visit Silicon Valley to Promote ‘Start Up Visa’

Waterloo, Ontario, sometimes called Silicon North, is one of Canada’s major tech centres. Citizenship and Immigration Canada hopes the new Start Up Visa encourages foreign technology entrepreneurs to start companies in the country

Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will be visiting California’s Silicon Valley on Friday for a four day trip intended to promote Canada as a place to live for the region’s entrepreneurs.

According to an article in San Jose’s Mercury News, a billboard is currently appearing near Silicon Valley advertising Canada to foreign tech workers struggling with H-1B visa restrictions:

On Tuesday, just days before Kenney was set to tour San Francisco and the South Bay to promote his new visa for startup entrepreneurs, a giant red maple leaf emerged on a billboard off Highway 101 on the route from San Francisco to the heart of Silicon Valley, part of a Canadian advertisement encouraging tech workers here temporarily to migrate north permanently.

Modeled on an idea first introduced but never passed in the U.S. Congress, Canada’s new “startup visa” grants permanent residency to entrepreneurs who can raise enough venture capital and start a Canadian business.

“H-1B problems?” asks the South San Francisco billboard, referencing America’s temporary visa for skilled foreign workers. “Pivot to Canada.”

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) hopes to capitalize on the frustration tech companies in the U.S. are feeling over immigration restrictions on foreign technology workers and encourage them to relocate to and invest in Canada.

The eventual goal is to help foster the development of a Canadian equivalent to Silicon Valley.

One challenge that CIC faces in this mission is the country’s top marginal income tax rate, which is significantly higher than that of the U.S. A Canadian entrepreneur can look forward to paying about 50 percent of their income to the government if they succeed in joining the top bracket of income earners.

Compensating for this disadvantage, the federal government is offering a perk that no other advanced economy offers foreign entrepreneurs: permanent residency status.

For foreign tech workers in the U.S. anxiously awaiting the six year limits on their H-1B visas, immigration to Canada offers a chance of stability that only permanent residency can provide.

Also working in Canada’s favor is the perception of being a safer country than the U.S., with significantly lower violent crime rates, particularly homicide rates. A better fiscal situation, with a much lower deficit to GDP ratio than the U.S., also gives foreign nationals more confidence in the country’s economic future.

Regardless of how successful CIC’s headhunting campaign in Silicon Valley ends up being, the federal government has a lot of ground to make up for, with total venture capital funding in all of Canada in 2012 coming to $1.5 billion -less than 15 percent of the $10.9 billion worth of deals that happened in Silicon Valley last year.

Immigration Canada Announces April 1 Launch of Start-Up Visa Program

Foreign entrepreneurs who receive venture capital funding from a designated venture capital fund or angel investor group will qualify for the new Start-Up Visa Program (CICS News)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced on Thursday that foreign entrepreneurs would be able to start applying for the newly created Start-Up Visa Program on April 1st of this year.

“Canada is open for business to the world’s start-up entrepreneurs,” said Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in announcing the launch date.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship are essential drivers of the Canadian economy. That is why we are actively recruiting foreign entrepreneurs – those who can build companies here in Canada that will create new jobs, spur economic growth and compete on a global scale – with our new start-up visa.”

To qualify for a Start-Up Visa, a potential immigrant must receive venture capital funding from a fund and angel investor group designated as a recognized venture capital investor by CIC, in partnership with Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA) and the National Angel Capital Organization (NACO).

A full list of designated venture capital funds and angel investor groups can be seen on the CIC website.

International competition

The Canadian Start-Up Visa Program is the first permanent residency program of its kind in the world but will still have to contend with competition for global start-ups from other countries which offer temporary residency and other perks to attract foreign entrepreneurs.

Singapore for example offers the EntrePass (Entrepreneur Pass), which provides business visas to qualifying individuals seeking to start a business in the country, and a competitive business environment, with no capital gains tax, a low income tax, and no fiscal deficit.

While inviting foreign business people and entrepreneurs to Canada undoubtedly contributes to the Canadian economy, an analysis on the income trends of Canada’s economic class immigrants, conducted by CICS News in January, suggests that the full potential of the capital and talent invited to Canada might remain unrealized unless the country’s business environment becomes globally competitive in terms of expected after-tax returns on investment made in the country.

Vancouver, Canada to Host International TED Conference

The TED conference will be held in the Vancouver Convention centre’s West Building, which was opened in 2009

The annual TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference, a gathering of some of the world’s brightest and most influential thinkers, will be moved to Vancouver in 2014 and 2015, it was announced on Monday.

It is believed that the move will provide a major boost to Vancouver’s reputation as a first class global city and have peripheral benefits in the way of attracting more businesses, innovators and international events to the city.

The annual TED conference started in 1990 and has emerged as one of the most highly regarded public forums for spreading ideas that benefit humanity. It often features renowned speakers, which have included Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, and Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

The topics covered in the talks can relate to any thing ranging from science, to contemporary politics, to economics, to culture, like the harm schools have on creativity and video showcases of creatures in the ocean.

Each ticket to the TED conference costs $7,500, meaning the event’s 1,400 attendees will be a collection of the comparatively very rich and influential, whose visit to Vancouver will doubtlessly raise awareness of the city among global decision makers.

Vancouver’s rising profile

Vancouver has qualities that make it particularly attractive to immigrants and international visitors to Canada, including access to the Pacific Ocean, a mild by-Canadian-standards climate, and the natural beauty of the Coast Mountains.

Its domestic and international popularity and above-Canadian-average population growth rate have persisted for decades, which suggests the trend will continue into the foreseeable future and the city will become increasingly important on the global stage.

TED’s move to Vancouver could be the iconic event that marks its transformation into a World City.

New Canadian Immigration Program For Entrepreneurs To Launch April 1

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) would like to help Canada create an equivalent to Silicon Valley, pictured above, with a new Start-Up Visa for venture-backed entrepreneurs

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced today that the Start-Up Visa, which will grant permanent residence to entrepreneurs who receive funding from Canadian venture capital firms, will launch on April 1st.

“Our new Start-Up Visa will help make Canada the destination of choice for the world’s best and brightest to launch their companies. Recruiting dynamic entrepreneurs from around the world will help Canada remain competitive in the global economy,” said Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in promoting the new program.

The launch of the Start-Up Visa is part of a re-structuring of Canadian immigration rules to make them more flexible and focused on Canada’s economic needs.

Under the federal government’s new immigration framework, CIC can create immigration programs that are tailored to meet a particular economic need, and admit a limited number of permanent residents through them per year.

The Start-Up Visa, along with the Federal Skilled Trades Program which launched on January 4th, are the first of this new breed of the limited quota, tailor-made programs, and are designed to meet specific shortages in high-growth sectors in Canada’s economy.

Start-Up Designation

In order to qualify for a Start-Up Visa, an entrepreneur must receive funding from an angel investor group or venture capital fund.

CIC will delegate Canada’s Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA) and the National Angel Capital Organization (NACO) the authority to designate members of their associations to be eligible to participate in the program.

The Immigration Department is also working with the Canadian Association of Business Incubation in order to include business incubators in the list of eligible funding organizations.

Canadian Government to Provide $400 Million to Bolster Domestic Venture Capital Industry

The headquarters of Shopify, one of Canada’s rising tech stars, in the ByWard Market district of Ottawa. The federal government hopes to see more high-growth technology companies like Shopify being started in Canada (GOOGLE MAPS)

The Harper government announced on Monday that it will inject $400 million in Canada’s venture capital industry as part of the Venture Capital Action Plan.

The goal of the plan is to encourage the creation of large venture capital funds that specialize in investing in early-stage, high-growth startup companies in Canada.

“Our Government understands that Canada’s long-term economic competitiveness in the emerging knowledge economy needs to be driven by globally competitive, high-growth businesses that innovate and create high-quality jobs,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper in announcing the initiative.

$250 million of the $400 million of federal funding will be used to create a “fund of funds” for Canada’s venture capital industry, which will invest in Canada-focused venture capital funds.

$100 million will be invested into a private-sector counter-part to the government-run ‘fund of funds’, which will have a similar role as the government-administered fund, but with private and provincial co-funders.

The remaining $50 million will be invested into “three to five” existing high-performance Canadian venture capital funds.

The federal government has made several efforts over the past year to support Canada’s venture capital and startup industry, including providing publicity for the volunteer-led and funded Startup Canada project, and beginning consultations on creating a new ‘startup visa’ to provide a route for entrepreneurs with venture capital funding to immigrate to Canada.

With top marginal personal income tax rates that are among the highest in the world though, the government could face an uphill battle in fostering an entrepreneurial culture in Canada according to some analysts.

A study released by Canadian economist Ergete Ferede last year shows a negative correlation between the extent of redistribution and progressivity in the personal income tax and the rate of self-employment.

Federal Government Backed Volunteer-Led Effort Promotes Canadian Start-Ups

The Startup Canada National Tour at its finale in Vancouver. The tour took Startup Canada to 40 Canadian cities where it consulted with over 20,000 people over six months (Cyprian Szalankiewicz)

Startup Canada, an entrepreneur-led government-backed non-profit organization, announced its action plan for increasing entrepreneurship in the country on Tuesday. The organization unveiled blueprints of a national network to support and connect entrepreneurial communities and a media campaign to create a strong entrepreneurial culture in Canada.

The action plan is the product of the Start-Up Canada National Tour which took the organization across the country from May to September 2012 and solicited input from over 20,000 entrepreneurs in 40 cities on how to create a national entrepreneur brand and foster Canada’s start-ups.

The action plan calls for three initiatives:

  • Startup Canada Connect: a social network to connect entrepreneurs
  • Startup Canada Communities: the creation of local entrepreneur communities, beginning with a pilot in 10 cities, which will organize local events, provide contacts to mentors, and support entrepreneurs as they develop their businesses
  • Startup Canada Campaign: a national media campaign to tell the stories of entrepreneurs in order to raise awareness of the role they play in Canada’s economy and promote them as role models in the country

Startup Canada is looking to launch the initiatives, including the Startup Canada Connect online social network, by May 2013, and is seeking to finance them through corporate sponsorships and crowd-funding.

Its current sponsors, which supported the Startup Canada National Tour, include Gowlings, Microsoft, Ernst & Young, Artik Promotions, PubliAir, and KA Media.

The organization launched its crowd-funding campaign on Tuesday through the Indiegogo platform: http://www.indiegogo.com/startupcanada and is looking to raise $100,000 in 34 days.

The action plan has been promoted by several federal officials, including Minister of State Small Business and Tourism Maxime Bernier, who spoke at an organization event in Montreal, and Industry Minister Tony Clement who was a speaker at an event in Ottawa, in Tuesday’s kick-off for the Startup Canada blue-print.

Canadian Government Developing a Digital Dollar

The Winnipeg Royal Canadian Mint, where the circulation coins of Canada and other countries are produced. The Mint hopes to develop a digital replacement for physical coins in the MintChip

The Royal Canadian Mint, a Crown Corporation responsible for minting Canada’s coins, is developing a digital version of the Canadian dollar that it hopes will make digital transactions as easy as cash-based ones.

The technology being developed is called MintChip, and the Mint is describing it as the ‘evolution of currency’. It relies on public-key cryptography and tamper-proof hardware to create non-reversible digital payments that do not require a connection to a third party payment processor like a bank or credit card network to complete.

The technology is not expected to be unhackable, but to keep risks for small-value digital transactions at manageable levels. The Mint says that due to the absence of transaction fees, the chips would also allow micro-transactions as low as 1 cent ($0.01).

The chip is still in the R&D phase, and it’s not known when, if ever, it will be released for public use.

To push the technology along, the Mint held a MintChip Challenge this year that invited software developers to create prototypes of applications of the technology. The competition ended in September with the winning teams being awarded a total of $52,700 worth of .9999 purity gold at a ceremony on October 25th.

While ambitious and seemingly far-fetched, it appears the Mint is quite far along in developing a replacement for physical banknotes and coins. If successful, the MintChip project would make Canada the first country in the world to have digital government-issued cash, giving its economy a leg up in the race to be a globally competitive centre of innovation.

Immigration Ministry Provides More Information on New “Start-up Visa”

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney with venture capitalist Kevin O'Leary in a joint news conference in April in the first announcement about the new start-up visa

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has released more information about the upcoming ‘start-up visa’, which is being designed for foreign tech entrepreneurs who want to a start a business in Canada.

“The start-up visa is an initiative that the government of Canada is exploring to assist in transforming our immigration system into a fast, fair and flexible system that will meet the needs of our economy and help grow our country,” said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s press secretary, Alexis Pavlich.

The new visa will be granted to individuals who receive funding from Canadian venture capital firms, who CIC assumes have a high potential to create successful Canadian companies that generate jobs and economic growth.

2,750 start-up visas will be set aside each year, up from 700 entrepreneur class visas granted in 2011. CIC suspended the entrepreneur program in July 2011, saying it was “overly burdensome and ineffective”, and needed to be revamped.