Allen Lau, CEO of the fast-growing storytelling app Wattpad, believes running his company in Toronto gives him an unfair advantage over his entrepreneurial counterparts in Silicon Valley. In Silicon Valley, where he ran a previous company, he'd be vying for engineers against Google and Facebook.
"To compete in that environment for the best talent would be very, very fierce," says Lau. "In a smaller pond we are the bigger fish. That helps us attract the best possible talent."
That talent has helped him attract more than $66 million in venture capital and grow his digital community to 45 million users over the last 10 years. With 130 employees and revenue growing 30 percent year-over-year, Lau says, "we are very determined to build this company in Toronto. We have no plan to open up another office elsewhere, except salespeople."
Lau is a well-known presence on Toronto's fast-growing start-up scene, where by all accounts excitement about entrepreneurship is percolating as it never has before. There are currently between 2,100 and 4,100 active tech start-ups in Toronto's ecosystem, according to a report by Tech Toronto, a community for entrepreneurs. Toronto and the cities immediately surrounding it had a population of 5.4 million people in 2015.
A confluence of factors is shaping the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the fourth-largest city in North America. One driver is the city's engineering talent pool. There are 150,000 full-time students enrolled in universities throughout the Greater Toronto area. In addition, the federal and provincial governments offer strong support for technology innovation and financial assistance. Start-ups are also supported by a robust venture capital community.