Report: Canada ranked fourth startup ecosystem globally as Toronto, Vancouver drop for second year


Despite being ranked in the top four, Canada has fallen one spot in StartupBlink’s 2020 global startup ecosystem rankings, as major tech hubs Toronto and Vancouver have also seen their ecosystem rankings drop.

StartupBlink said the main issue separating Canada from the top three countries is its ability to create unicorns and “highly popular” startups.

The United States, United Kingdom, and Israel, along with Canada, once again all held on to the top four spots for countries with the strongest startup ecosystems. This year, both Toronto and Vancouver experienced a notable ranking decrease, with the former falling nine spots and the latter falling by 12. Toronto, Vancouver, and Montréal are listed in StartupBlink’s top 50 ecosystems, though there is now not a single Canadian hub in the top 20 cities.

In its rankings report, StartupBlink said the main issue separating Canada from the top three countries is Canada’s ability to create unicorns and “highly popular” startups. Notably,EdTech startup, ApplyBoard, recently reached unicorn status after raising $100 million and claiming a $2 billion valuation.

The 2020 Narwhal List also recently reported that Canada is on track to greatly improve its unicorn record, noting an increase from seven to 42 Canadian tech companies on track to surpass the $1 billion valuation.

“Canada has massive potential,” the report noted. “Considering the substantial interest of the relatively efficient public sector in the growth of the ecosystem, and relative abundance of resources, there is no reason Canadian startup ecosystems should not take an even more substantial role in creating massive global hubs.”

In StartupBlink’s 2019 report, Vancouver dropped six places to 24, and Toronto dropped by four places to 15. For 2020, Toronto ranks 24 globally, Vancouver ranks 37, and Montréal’s position remained the same as last year at 49.

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StartupBlink uses algorithms that analyze tens of thousands of data points to rank the startup ecosystems of 100 countries and 1,000 cities. The ranking algorithm was built in cooperation with its data partners at CrunchBase, Semrush, UNAIDS, and Meetup. More than 40 governments, municipalities, and economic development organizations also participated in the report.

“There is no reason Canadian startup ecosystems should not take an even more substantial role in creating massive global hubs.”

Ottawa’s ranking increased by six spots to 57, which has the city approaching the top 50. Edmonton also moved up four spots to 91 and Calgary has ascended 14 spots to 97. This bring’s Canada’s total number of cities in the top 100 to six, which is a new record for the country’s startup ecosystem.

As for cities ranked in the top 150, Kitchener-Waterloo, Québec City, and Victoria registered a slight decline, while Kingston saw its ecosystem ranked 144.

The report cited the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) as a key driver for the city’s rise, adding that the public sector is expressing enthusiasm about local startups. Notably, Edmonton’s city council voted in December to change the EEDCs mandate and scale back the organization’s responsibilities. The city has since voted to form a new innovation entity independent of the EEDC.

In a new section of the report focused on COVID-19, Canada ranked third in the world for COVID–19 innovation, and Toronto ranked fourth in the world. StartupBlink noted that despite the city’s drop in the overall rankings, it still has the potential to be a global hub. Calgary also overperformed, ranking 70.

There is only one new Canadian entry to StartupBlink’s rankings in 2020: Oakville, ranked at 380. The decrease in the number of major Canadian city hubs means that Toronto is now ranked 10 in North America, after 9 cities from the USA, while Vancouver is regionally ranked15 and Montréal 19.

Canada now has 2.9 percent of the top 1,000 ecosystems globally. StartupBlink said in order for Canada to retain a high status globally, startups will have to be “less risk-averse” and adopt the mentality of entrepreneurs in the US.

Image source Wikimedia Commons.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.