MobSquad is the latest addition to Calgary's tech ecosystem in early October thanks in part to the City’s new investment attraction initiative.
It is the first company to qualify for support from the $100-million Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund launched by the City of Calgary in April. MobSquad was among the 150 applications received since the Fund was launched and more announcements will follow in the coming months as others progress through the onerous evaluation process.
“This is one of the most rigorous review processes I’ve been involved with in terms of ensuring there is benefit for Calgary and alignment with the city’s economic goals,” said Barry Munro, Chair of the Board of Directors for Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF). “Everything is earned. All of the financial support is contingent on the company or institution achieving targets set out in the agreement and then getting the funds."
The Fund is similar to investment attraction tools used effectively by other jurisdictions in Canada and the United States.
The applications to date have come from a mix of local and out-of-market companies. About half are in core industries that have been identified for growth in the city’s economic strategy Calgary in the New Economy – energy, agribusiness, transportation and logistics, creative industries, and life sciences. The remainder are concentrated in tech and many focus on commercializing technology across all sectors.
The 10-member volunteer Board includes prominent business leaders in the city's key economic sectors as well as civic leaders; including Mayor Neheed Nenshi, who is an ex-officio member.
Calgary Economic Development serves as the administrator.
The Fund has its origins in the Downtown Economic Summit in February 2016. Business and community leaders urged City Council to take action to address high unemployment and office vacancy rates more than 25 per cent in the wake of an historic recession.
Business-as-usual, it was acknowledged wouldn’t resolve the challenge.
Funding is open to private-sector companies, non-profit organizations and public institutions that will be a stimulus for projects that drive sector development and innovation in key industries. It intention is to support catalytic investments with potential to help transform the city’s economy.
MobSquad, for example, provides clients in Silicon Valley with teams of top software engineers and data scientists who work from satellite offices across Canada. It will employ 150 people in Calgary in tech and head office functions. It will receive $1.5 million from the Fund paid in installments as it achieves specific employment numbers.
“This is the first of many OCIF projects that will create jobs and act as a catalyst for growth in Calgary’s economy,” Nenshi said during the official opening of MobSquad’s offices in The Edison Building that was also attended by Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Joe Ceci, Alberta’s Minister of Finance.
All of the applicants are subject to a multi-stage review to assess their business plan against a number of specific criteria:
• Economic benefits to Calgary (investment and revenue growth).
• Number and quality of jobs created for Calgarians.
• Alignment with key industries and sectors.
• Impact on the innovation and sector ecosystems.
• Leveraged funding and alignment with strategic initiatives.
• Social benefits to citizens of Calgary.
Projects deemed to have strong potential and are aligned with the criteria are evaluated on the overall merits and the likelihood of success by the Board and subject matter experts from industry. They’re also subjected to thorough financial reviews by third-party auditors.
If a recipient doesn’t fulfill the terms of the agreement, there are claw-back provisions.
The city's investment is returned through higher business and property taxes as well as playing an influential role in supporting initiatives to propel key sectors as part of a diverse and prosperous economy.