By RAMLI JOHN | PIVOT MAGAZINE WRITER
When you think of ‘Calgary,’ the first thoughts that come to mind might be the Calgary stampede, oil or the 1988 Winter Olympics. On the bottom of that list might be ‘technology startup.’
Organizations like Innovate Calgary, AcceleratorYYC and Startup Calgary are trying to change that and make entrepreneurs think ‘Calgary’ when looking for a place to launch their businesses. Even startup superstar Brad Feld, a venture capitalist investor at Foundry Group and co-founder of the TechStars accelerator program), is taking notice. (Feld gave the keynote speech at Startup Calgary’s 4th annual launch party in November last year).
So if you are wondering, “Why should I consider Calgary as the place to launch my startup?” Here are some of the benefits Calgary has to offer new and established tech startups.
Growing Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
One of the reasons why startups like Kudos, Kitchen Collective and Rally Engine are thriving in Calgary is because of the city’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem. According to this Forbes article, entrepreneurial ecosystems consists of six components: a conducive culture, enabling policies and leadership, availability of appropriate finance, quality human capital, venture-friendly markets for products, and a range of institutional and infrastructural supports. Innovate Calgary is one of the organizations working to pull all six components together.
“Calgary has a vibrant tech start-up eco-system and over the past several years I have seen enhanced collaboration among the many organizations that are involved in the community,” says Peter Garrett, president of Innovate Calgary. “Innovate Calgary is proud to be a collaborative partner with many of the organizations including Startup Calgary and we continue to build on being one of the key supporters and a hub for the community”
Innovate Calgary is the technology-transfer and business-incubation centre for the University of Calgary. It has partnered with Startup Calgary, an entrepreneur-led, volunteer-driven grassroots movement, to encourage the growth of tech startups in Calgary.
Diverse Talent Pool
Tom Short and Muni Boga, started Calgary-based company Kudos, a social recognition system to help companies engage their employees. One reason they decided to launch a tech startup in Calgary was its diverse talent pool, which ranges from investment bankers to manufacturing workers. Another bonus is the highly-trained science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students who graduate from University of Calgary each year.
“Lots of talent has been attracted by the oil and gas industry which gives us a great talent pool for start ups,” says Tom Short, Co-CEO and Founder of Kudos. “We are over 1 million people now and by becoming a player for start up success and we hope to add to that story.”
Calgary also has lots of disposable income. In a 2010 survey by Statistics Canada, Albertans are earning the highest weekly paycheques out of all of Canada, giving them the financial edge when starting a bootstrapped startup.
Location, Location, Location
Another reason to launch a startup in Calgary is its central location. It’s only a few hours flight from major tech cities like Vancouver, Seattle and San Francisco.
“The fact that we are located approximately half way between Toronto and San Francisco, allows us to visit both of these cities equally in a relatively short amount of time,” says Muni Boga, Co-CEO and Founder of Kudos. “While we may not have the same exposure or resources that exist from residing in one of those cities, we can rely on our international advisors, clients, and affiliates for feedback and focus on listening to our clients and building a great product. In the end, information moves fast and if your clients love you and your solution, they will spread the good word about your company.”
Being close to beautiful scenery definitely can help entrepreneurs remain inspired and calm during the startup journey. Calgary’s beautiful landscape is one of the reasons why it’s repeatedly been ranked as one of the best cities to live in Canada. “There exists a sense of clarity that comes from being so close to the mountains,” Boga adds.
In one of its recent article, MoneySense ranked Calgary as the best large city to live in. “Calgary is always recognized as one of the best places to live, work and raise a family in the world as well,” says Tom Short. “Since we are getting more on the global stage and there is so much wealth and talent here – it is a natural for Calgary to become a very vibrant startup centre.”
Think Calgary for Your Startup
A growing entrepreneurial ecosystem, diverse talent pool and location are just some of the benefits that Calgary has to offer new and established tech startups. So, next time you hear ‘Calgary’ you won’t just think about the Calgary stampede, oil or the 1988 Winter Olympics, but also ‘technology startups.’