It was a lot of fun watching Pebble's record-shattering Kickstarter campaign unfold from the first to the final chapter. Pebble, after all, is a product of Allerta, which was started in Waterloo by Vancouver entrepreneur Eric Migicovsky. So it's a Canadian success story, right?
Not so fast.
Yes, Eric is a Canadian entrepreneur, and yes, his company and first product originated in Canada. He used Canadian government funding programs and SR&ED tax credits. He attended the University of Waterloo and even joined the school's Velocity incubator. Heck, his original smartwatch was for the all-Canadian BlackBerry.
But Eric encountered a glitch.
He needed money and venture capitalists weren't biting. So he considered crowdfunding. Only Kickstarter isn't exactly Canada-friendly.
Eric decided to found a US corporation, replanting the roots of Allerta and pulling all of his company's assets outside of Canada. All for one crowdfunding campaign, you ask? Well, Kickstarter notched his company 85,000 pre-sold watches and $10 million in advance revenue. It was clearly a wise move, if only in hindsight. Besides, there was apparently nothing to stay for: he reached a ceiling in Canada while he was still growing.
As it turns out, he likes the US. A lot. A lot more than Canada, in fact. If you thought he might return to the country that gave him his promising start, you'd be mistaken.
Eric recently endorsed Silicon Valley as a superior place to build your startup than anywhere in Canada—for money, for talent, you name it. Basically, he feels that Canada is a waste of time for entrepreneurs building startups.
Maybe he's right. Why couldn't he raise any money here? And why didn't we care about keeping him? Or, for that matter, the thousands of other brilliant tech entrepreneurs who flock south every winter, never to return again in the summer?
There are as many as 350,000 Canadians living and working in the Valley right now. That's up to 1% of our entire country's population, huddled together in one small region in America, creating jobs, driving the economy. Their jobs. Their economy.
Then again, maybe being Canadian was how Eric got gained such an easy foothold in the Valley—they do tend to welcome us with open arms. And perhaps that is the real core of the issue: the Valley is willing to wave hello as Canadian entrepeneurs come, and we're willing to wave goodbye as they leave.