Last week the National Post ran an article titled, Technology the new engine of central Canada. The article offers a mix of stories about Waterloo’s tech start up culture and looks at the jobs the technology industry has created in the region.
The article begins with a look at Waterloo based software start up AideRSS and their product PostRank which finds and ranks useful content online. The company which was launched by Ilya Grigorik with $3 million in seed capital has grown quickly. Grigorik and PostRank’s new chief executive, Carol Leaman have turned the idea into a valuable software package for PR and marketing firms that use PostRank to track messages across the web in real time. In eight months AideRSS has grown from four to eleven employees, and over the next year staff may once again double.
While the once strong auto parts manufacturing industry in the region bleeds jobs the small tech community is generating $15 billion per year, and the employment growth rate has risen 7%. Tech firms in Waterloo region employ over 28,000 people and 2,000 new jobs are waiting to be filled.
Mike Lazaridis, co-chief executive of RIM attributes the regions success to the University of Waterloo, “It’s the strong research universities that spin off strong industry and clusters of companies”. Lazaridis has invested heavily in Waterloo by donating millions to research laboratories including the Institute for Quantum Computing and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.
Even before RIM’s success the tech community has always reinvested their time and money back into the region. Tech companies and their executives give back to upcoming entrepreneurs through organizations like Communitech, which provides mentors to local innovators. Communitech President Ian Klugman estimates the region has around 150 start ups with ten new ones being created every month.
Waterloo continues to be a great example of how Canada’s local economies can be reinvented and recharged. This can only be accomplished with a well educated workforce. Mr. Lazaridis told the National Post reporter “Our most valuable resource is our trained citizens…that is our true national asset, and it’s renewable”.