I’ve been thinking a lot about all of the lesser-known tech hubs across Canada — but then I went to Calgary and saw some things that really opened my eyes. I was there for a Connect to Tech event, co-hosted with Calgary Economic Development. The event brought together international tech talent and tech companies, with the goal of connecting talent with their dream job within just six weeks.
I know that when most Canadians drill down to what they think about Alberta’s economy, it’s pretty much all about oil and gas. But the truth is, Alberta is changing. I should know: VanHack has helped place 33 tech professionals in Calgary, and the pace is getting faster.
Now, recent government cuts to innovation investments certainly have local tech leaders seriously concerned. That said, there are bright spots that light the way to what could be Calgary’s tech-powered future. Our partners at CED had a lot to say about all of this, and I want to share what I’ve learned.
Investing in a new natural resource: tech talent
In one conversation with CED’s Edge Up Director, Jeanette Sutherland, she mentioned that there are over 2,000 jobs open in Calgary today. It’s not quite “if you can code and have a pulse, you’ll find work here,” Sutherland said. But it’s pretty close.
An Invest in Alberta report showed that between 2012 and 2016, the number of technology companies headquartered in Alberta increased by 48 percent. Below are a few other statistics, courtesy CED:
- 62 percent of Alberta’s private technology companies are based in Calgary.
- 52 percent of Calgary’s private technology companies identify as having achieved market traction and are scaling.
- Calgary has the highest concentration of high-tech workers in all Canadian cities.
- 26 percent of Calgary’s private technology companies have more than $1 million in annual revenue.
Honestly, that last figure surprised me, and I run a tech recruiting company. But here’s what CED told me: “Calgary also has a large share of high-tech workers, presumably the result of a large number of engineers working in the region’s resource sectors.” And 66 percent of Calgary’s workforce has a post-secondary education. Clearly, Calgary’s innovative tech sector is brimming with talent.
A future FinTech hub
Calgary’s strong tech talent base is matched by a growing FinTech sector, which has tripled in two years, from 10 companies in 2017 to 30 companies in 2019 (per CED).
Calgary’s already-strong FinTech sector is well-placed to handle growth in the local tech sector.
Of course, there are trends in Calgary’s FinTech sector, and then there are stand-alone success stories. Calgary-based Solium was acquired by Morgan Stanley for $1.1 billion in May. The company has 450 employees in Calgary (800 worldwide) and is continuing to experience strong growth, now as Shareworks. That’s huge!
Innovation without access to capital often can’t reach its full potential. Calgary’s already-strong financial services sector is well-placed to handle growth in the local tech sector. According to the CED, Calgary’s financial services sector handles 9.5 percent of global energy M&A deal volume and 17 percent of its total value. As well, nine of the top 10 investment banks have a presence in Calgary — along with eight of the top 10 world banks.
That means Calgary’s tech companies can more easily tap into that worldwide network of financial services and funding, whether they’re starting up, scaling up, or selling.
Calgary leads in cleantech
There’s often a strange disconnect when people talk about the traditional oil and gas sector vs. tech. The truth of the matter is simple: who has billions of dollars to spend on Internet of Things instrumentation, AI, drones, and other components of cleantech innovation?
So it’s no surprise to me that cleantech is actually one of Calgary’s top sectors. In fact, it’s in the top 15 cleantech hubs, worldwide, per CED. And the federal government recently announced funding of $13 million for Calgary-based cleantech companies.
“E3P Technologies Inc. is being allocated $3 million for a zero-emission compressor that hopes to eliminate methane leaks from natural gas compression, with the goal of lowering greenhouse gas emissions,” BetaKit reported in February.
Meanwhile, 28.5 percent of Canada’s installed wind generation capacity is operated by Calgary-based energy companies.
My close-up take on the Calgary tech sector
While Calgary’s tech hub has some excellent potential, it shares the big challenge of Canada’s other innovation centres: access to talent. That’s why I’m so impressed by CED’s $4 million ad campaign to let people know that there are 2,000 to 3,000 tech jobs open at any time.
And it’s not just an outbound innovation message; CED is actively soliciting ideas on how it can attract entrepreneurs and boost the economy through its website.
There’s a lot of energy going into developing Calgary’s tech talent pipeline — and we’re proud to be part of that.
Feature image courtesy Unsplash.