Calgary: Accelerating global tech startups

May 19, 2022
Life in Calgary Innovation New Economy
Calgary Downtown v2

This article first appeared online on May 13 in London Tech Week news.

Nestled in the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Calgary's burgeoning tech and innovation ecosystem is no secret, spinning out startups across diverse industries that become billion-dollar unicorn businesses. 

Behind the deal velocity is a growing number of multinational business accelerators making a home in the city, including Endeavor headquartered in New York, and Silicon Valley’s Plug and Play and SVG Ventures | THRIVE 

Accelerators like these are helping fast-track creative sparks into startups with global solutions, facilitating access to funding, entrepreneurial mentorship and the connections to soar to new heights. 

With a vision to be the place where bright minds and big ideas come together with an unmatched spirit to help solve global challenges in its economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy – smart money has taken notice. Calgary experienced another record-breaking year in venture capital investment in 2021, with over $500 million in deals. 

“We’re firm believers as VCs – we want to fish where the fish are. There’s a lot of fish in Calgary for us to invest in,” said John Cassidy, Managing Director of Canada at SVG Ventures I Thrive in London Tech Week’s Elevating Founders podcast. 

Building on a foundation as a global centre of excellence in energy, Calgary continues to diversify with leading corporations and startups across industries, from cleantech, agtech, fintech and transportation to the life sciences and creative industries.  

“There are so many things happening that are parallel to a vibrant tech ecosystem – where people from a fintech startup can then take lessons learned into an ag startup, then an energy startup and scale their ideas globally,” said Brad Zumwalt, board director, Endeavor Canada. 

More signs of a vibrant innovation ecosystem – Calgary boasts the highest head office concentration per capita in Canada and has the highest concentration of high-tech workers of Canadian cities. The city’s startup community was valued at over $1.5 billion in 2021, positioning it as a hub for innovation. 

“We understand the important role corporates play in developing the entrepreneurship and talent of startups because they become customers of their technology and that healthy landscape allows startups to really flourish and grow in their local market,” said Michael Olmstead, Chief Revenue Officer, Plug and Play. 

Another key factor driving Calgary’s startup growth is its people, with top post-secondary institutions, including Olds College, University of Calgary, University of Lethbridge and SAIT feeding the talent pipeline. 

“A lot of our global roles are being filled in Calgary because of the abundance of talent that exists there,” added Cassidy.  

Adding to the discussion on what’s in the water: “There’s this appetite for innovation and disruption,” said Olmstead. “There’s a high standard of living and cost advantages.”  

For more on why Calgary is on the map as an ideal location for global startups, tune into the Elevating Founders podcast Location for startups: Why does it matter? A look at Calgary’s Innovation Hub.  To view the podcast, register for immediate access.

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