Wednesday, September 01, 2010

War For Talent: Canadian Brain Drain

Concerning attracting foreign born talent, the grass is supposedly greener in Canada. The claims are mostly hype intended to push US immigration policy towards liberalization. The view from Vancouver:

“There is a Canadian in a high-level executive position in every major technology company in the Silicon Valley,” said the Mississauga-born Robinson, who founded and exited two Internet companies in the valley before retuning to Canada to found Bootup.

Further evidence of the Canadian presence in the valley could be found at the Grow conference held this month in Vancouver, where Canadians who have become major executives, venture capitalists, serial entrepreneurs and deal-makers in the valley were well represented.

But given their technical training and entrepreneurial zeal, expats in the Silicon Valley also contribute to Canada’s brain drain.

It’s a problem that was more topical in Canada in previous years, but one that Robinson still witnesses.

“There is no defensive strategy that will stop the brain drain,” said Robinson. “There is only an offensive strategy to reduce the churn of brains going out – by bringing more brains in.”

The Canadian press is riddled with brain drain anxiety. Talent shortages loom larger there than they do in the United States. The entrepreneurial economy is a shadow of what we have in this country. Apparently, necessity is the mother of innovation:

According to C100 co-founder Anthony Lee, its members have already helped organize $40 million worth of cross-border financing in deals involving a half-dozen Canadian firms. Lee is a Vancouverite who moved to the U.S. in 1988 and landed in the Silicon Valley in 1994, where he’s now a partner in venture capital firm Altos Ventures.

Altos recently invested in two Canadian technology startups, one in Calgary, the other in Toronto.

“We really want to erase the border as much as possible and turn the whole notion of brain drain on its head and make it more of an issue of brain flow,” said Lee.

“All these expats in the valley come back home all the time – to Vancouver, to Calgary, to Toronto – and we want to take advantage of that flow of people to create a flow of capital, a flow of business, a flow of contacts and a flow of networks.” ...

... Lee said the C100 will help create jobs in Canada.

“And do we have to make sure that the companies that get funded keep their people in Canada?” said Lee.

Not necessarily.

He said C100 will start by helping to make Canadian entrepreneurs successful wherever they are in the world.

“And that will always improve things in Canada,” he said. “People will always come back, always set up offices here, and they’ll fund other Canadians.”

That Anthony Lee might be onto something. Stay tuned ...

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