Waterloo EDC Blog

Waterloo, Canada vs. Austin, Texas

5 Charts: Waterloo vs. Austin

Posted by Waterloo EDC on July 21, 2020

This is the first edition in a new Waterloo EDC series called “5 Charts: Waterloo Versus” that compares our community with some of America’s top tech hubs. Future posts will look at Pittsburgh, Columbus, Salt Lake City and more.

We often compare Waterloo’s exceptional tech credentials to other major cities in Canada like Toronto and Montreal, and major US tech hubs like Silicon Valley and New York, where the vast majority of tech investment has traditionally landed.

What we haven’t really dug into – until now – is how our ecosystem stacks up against smaller US tech markets that are showing undeniable momentum, like Austin, Pittsburgh and Columbus. We’ve scoured our data and are ready to go head-to-head with tech markets across the United States.

Get ready for some friendly competition!

Matchup #1: Waterloo, Canada vs. Austin, Texas

Austin and Waterloo share a handful of similarities. We’re both home to major Google offices, a globally ranked university and a booming startup scene. Austin was even named "Waterloo, Texas" when it was founded. It makes for a good matchup.

Quick facts:

  Waterloo  Austin
Population  600,000 2,227,082
Nearby Universities 3 6
Total Student Population  77,000+ 180,000+
Startups Per Capita 96.883 95.573
Total Tech Workforce Growth (5 Years) 51% 16.7%

Round One: Tech Talent Density 

Waterloo/Austin Tech Talent Density Comparison - Waterloo is 8% and Austin is 7%It’s not surprising that Waterloo wins round one – we have one of the highest-density tech ecosystems in North America – but it’s close.

What contributes to Waterloo’s impressive concentration of high-tech employment?

First, we have fewer universities and students, but Waterloo is home to Canada’s top technology school, the University of Waterloo (UWaterloo). Second, Canada has some very business-friendly immigration programs that are helping American companies retain global talent in the face of H-1B uncertainty. Finally, our growing collection of global tech giants, like Google, Shopify and OpenText, and high-growth unicorns like Faire and ApplyBoard, means Waterloo has exceptional density in a small area.

Round Two: Engineering and Computer Science University Program Sizes

Waterloo/Austin Tech Student Comparison - Waterloo has 14,000 and Austin has just over 10,000

Again, it’s hard to keep up with Waterloo. UWaterloo is a beacon for world-class engineering and technology talent, but so is the University of Texas at Austin. They’re both in the top 50 globally for engineering and technology schools, after all. The big difference is scale – UWaterloo simply has far more students in computer science and engineering.

That doesn’t mean the talent is watered down, though. UWaterloo’s grads are among the world’s most work-ready, they’re known for putting a premium on entrepreneurship, and 85.5% of all new UWaterloo software engineering students enter with a 95%+ average.

Bonus fact: 18.6% of all tech founders in Canada were students at UWaterloo.

Round Three: Research Output 

Waterloo/Austin Research Output Comparison - Waterloo is 7,000 citations and Austin is 8,000Austin takes round three, but just barely. Considering the fact that the University of Texas at Austin is regarded as a "Public Ivy" - a public university that achieves Ivy League-levels of student and faculty quality - it is notable that Waterloo's research performance is nearly its equivalent.

Just for fun, let’s do a bonus chart that adjusts for community size.

Waterloo/Austin Per Capita Research Output Comparison - Waterloo is 1,350 citations per 100,000 people and Austin is 400

Woah. This really highlights how incredible our research output is when you consider the relatively small size of our community. This is probably a good time to point out that we’re only including the three local post-secondary institutions in this chart, but there are actually 16 universities and colleges within about 105km/65mi.

Round Four: Rent 

working space costs

Well, Waterloo wins here. Our commercial rent costs are half those of Austin’s.

Finding that perfect working space for a reasonable price is a daunting task in most communities. In Waterloo it’s possible to find a space that supports your company’s expansion plans while realizing a significant cost savings.

Round Five: Tech Salaries  

Tech Salaries Austin

It’s all Waterloo here, too. Quality of tech talent and significant cost advantages are central to the Waterloo value proposition. In fact, CBRE’s 2019 Scoring Canadian Tech Talent ranked Waterloo 1st in Canada for tech talent quality to cost.

Waterloo’s lower cost of living is a bonus. Our average residential rental prices are almost 40% less than those in Austin and our average household spend on healthcare is 50% less than Austin’s. You can do more living for less money in Canada’s fastest growing community.


Waterloo has significant advantages in talent, research productivity and cost compared to Austin. Yes, we are proud of our community, but the numbers speak for themselves. Want to find out who's already working in our ecosystem? Download our Artificial Intelligence Ecosystem Map, which list 130+ companies working on AI in our community:

Download the Waterloo AI Cluster Map Now!

Connect with us today to learn more about Waterloo’s incredible tech ecosystem. Like data? There's more where this came from!


Topics: technology, talent, business, artificial intelligence, site selection