Why tech talent and startups are flocking to Calgary, Alberta, Canada

October 3, 2023
New Economy Technology Talent
Resize CED EricGonzalez  CalgaryCityscapeSquareJPG

Photo Credit: Eric González

This article first appeared in GeekWire on September 29, 2023.

In 2022, Calgary, Alberta, Canada officially transitioned from a small to a large tech market, with over 50,000 tech jobs representing 6.9 per cent of total employment. Calgary also became the second most concentrated tech talent market in North America for individuals in their thirties.

So, what’s going on with Calgary? A look at the past few years tells us all we need to know.

For over a decade, Calgary has consistently been ranked among the Top 10 most livable cities in the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Individuals and families are drawn to the city’s vibrant community, career possibilities and hour-drive proximity to the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

As a result, Calgary is now the third most diverse major city in Canada, its residents representing more than 240 different ethnicities and speaking more than 165 different languages.

From opportunities in sustainable energy to e-sports, and AI to aviation, young professionals see Calgary as the place to build both a fulfilling life and career.

Where this skilled talent goes, businesses are sure to follow.

Local starts ups are born and choose to stay in Calgary

Five years ago, Calgary was hardly a blip on the global innovation ecosystem radar. But in 2023, Startup Genome ranked Calgary among the Top 60 emerging startup ecosystems in the world with cleantech, fintech and agtech identified as sub-sector strengths.

“We’re seeing an incredible tech community emerge, grow and thrive in Calgary. Increasingly, it’s a collaborative community trying to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems,” said Crystal Phillips, Vice President of Thin Air Labs Fund I, a venture capital and services firm.

The firm received backing from the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund (OCIF), a municipal $100 million fund designed to attract further investment in the community. OCIF is a tool the City of Calgary created to invest in its future – namely through high-impact investments that scale companies and create skilled jobs. Access to capital has increased the valuation of the city’s startup ecosystem by more than double, from $2.5 billion in 2020 to $5.2 billion in 2022. Last year, 2022, was another record-breaking year for Calgary startups, with $647 million invested in 64 deals.

Beyond access to capital and skilled talent, over 35 accelerators and incubators are taking action to position early-stage startups to scale and commercialize their ventures. Anchored in the downtown core, a community-based innovation center Platform Calgary, empowers startups to navigate the growing network of resources.

In 2023 alone, Calgary-based Neo Financial, Summit Nanotech, Attabotics and BlueEarth Renewables were valued at $1 billion CAD and achieved the status of a Canadian Narwhal, a private Canadian technology company best poised to become a world class firm. Born in Calgary, these scaleups are choosing to stay.

Global firms are opening headquarters in Calgary

In the last two years, multinational firms including Mphasis, Infosys, Applexus and Sidetrade also realized the potential in the city and established headquarters in Calgary.

“Not only is Calgary a great place for our staff to build a life, but there is a culture of innovation in Calgary that we feel will really support our growth,” said Frédéric Dupont, Sidetrade’s Chief Services Officer, on why Sidetrade selected Calgary as its North American headquarters.

The global firms see value in Calgary’s concentration of industry decision-makers, as the city is home to a growing list of over 100 head offices, the second highest concentration in Canada.

OCIF is another reason companies are considering establishing headquarters in the city – including the attraction of global anchor companies IBM, Mphasis, Endeavor and SVG Ventures | THRIVE.

High scores in livability and collaboration among industry players across industries, continues to set Calgary apart from other major cities, and both are priorities in the city’s economic strategy, Calgary in the New Economy. Home to a vibrant innovation ecosystem, bright minds with big ideas choose to build their careers and lives in Calgary.

If you are considering making a career more, you can explore job opportunities, learn about innovative companies and explore events at Live Tech, Love Life. Or, learn more and dive deeper into Calgary's tech sector

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