Survey: Toronto-region tech companies saw increase in international hiring in 2017

A recent survey from Toronto-based innovation hub MaRS Discovery District shows that Toronto-region tech companies have seen a surge in international applicants and hires in 2017 compared to 2016.

MaRS conducted a survey of more than 100 high-growth tech companies based primarily in the Toronto region that have over $1-million CAD annual revenue with US and international market exposure.

Of the 55 survey respondents:

  • 53% of companies saw more international applicants in 2017 over 2016
  • 45% of companies made international hires in 2017
  • Multiple companies saw an increase in international applicants of at least 50-100%
  • Some companies saw as much as a 300% increase in applicants year over year

The majority of companies surveyed cited immigration reform including the Canadian federal government’s new Global Skills Strategy visas as a key factor influencing their competitiveness for international recruitment. The new expedited visas were introduced in June 2016 and are designed to help tech companies hire skilled workers faster with processing in as little as two weeks. 35% of survey respondents reported using these new visas to hire. As a dedicated referral partner, MaRS helps companies navigate global hiring.

Companies surveyed reported hiring predominantly from the United States (82%), India (55%), China (36%), Brazil (27%), and the UK (14%). The top positions hired for included engineering (76%), sales (67%), marketing (63%), data scientists (49%), operations (47%), and c-suite (27%). These numbers reflect the fact that many companies made multiple hires.

“Talent is borderless. For the first time in my life, the North to South brain drain is flowing in the opposite direction,” says MaRS CEO Yung Wu. “Top talent will go where they can work with the best and make the biggest impact and Canada has emerged as the obvious destination. Our companies are competitive because they have access to global expertise and recognize that diversity is a strength.”

Another key indication of the health of the Canadian tech ecosystem, venture capital funding hit a record high of $2.7B in 2017, with investors particularly bullish on the Canadian AI and fintech sectors, according to PwC Canada and CB Insights. This funding avalanche continues to accelerate in 2018 with significant recent raises from Toronto companies including Wattpad ($51M USD), Wealthsimple ($51M USD), Drop, ($21M USD), Platterz ($15M USD), and Ratehub ($12M USD).

Venture quotes:

“It is surprising to see a government program that focuses on embracing high growth companies in attracting the best talent from the world. The Global Skills Strategy visa has made the entire process more approachable, translating to faster results and positive business impact. We are looking at attracting even more great talent in the world.
– William Zhou, CEO,

“At TwentyBN we hadn’t hired our first Canadian employee until March 2018. A lot of prospective applicants are in disbelief when we tell them about the Global Skills Strategy visas and that we can get them on board and ready to go within a few weeks from the time they interview at TwentyBN.”
– Roland Memisevic, CEO, TwentyBN

“Talent is tight in Toronto, having the ability to attract a foreign national in as little as two weeks is beneficial, particularly with how fast-paced technology and the industry overall is moving.
It is important to be able to attract foreign talent if we are to fulfill on our promise to build out an ecosystem to rival ecosystems in other top cities, especially as Toronto based companies grow at the rate they are growing, and helps to even out the talent strategy.”
– Ben Zifkin, CEO, Hubba

Additional stats:

  • Canada currently admits six times more high skilled workers per capita than the US.
  • CBRE’s 2017 North American Scoring Tech Talent report named Toronto the fastest growing tech market, beating out San Francisco and NYC combined. In the last two years Toronto added 22,500 new technology jobs, compared to 5,370 for New York and 11,540 for San Francisco.

About MaRS Discovery District

MaRS Discovery District (@MaRSDD) in Toronto is one of the world’s largest urban innovation hubs. Our purpose is to help innovators change the world. MaRS supports promising ventures tackling key challenges in the health, cleantech, finance and commerce, and work and learning sectors as they start, grow and scale. In addition, the MaRS community fosters cross-disciplinary collaboration to drive breakthrough discoveries and new solutions to be adopted in Canada and beyond, growing our economy and delivering societal impact at scale.

Media contact
Danielle Klassen

MaRS Discovery District